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Government focus on jobs in poultry and other sectors

Trade policy is about jobs. So are master plans, and localisation. That was the focus of Minister Ebrahim Patel during the parliamentary discussion of the budget for his Department of Trade, Industry and Competition.

He sees trade policy – both the protection of local industries against unfair imports, and the promotion of exports – as a tool for job creation and the stimulation of local businesses.

Both aspects directly affect the poultry industry. It is one of six which has agreed master plans and poultry is one of 42 products that Minister Patel has designated for his localisation policy.

On tariffs he said tariff adjustments and rebates are an important policy instrument to lower or increase import duties. In future there would need to be accompanied more clearly “by binding commitment by applicants to improve their competitiveness, create jobs and price restraint”.

South Africa had to increase its exports, he said. “Trade policy needs to be a source of new jobs and expansion of the industrial economy.” In support of the export drive, the Export Credit Insurance Corporation will be permitted to provide risk cover for a range of industrial products. And to address the “widespread levels of illegal imports”, the government is finalising discussions with South Africa’s trading partners on measures to combat these activities.

The planned boost in chicken exports is happening much slower than anticipated, partly because of the impact of Covid-19. But clearly the government will plan to speed it up, not least because of the job-creation potential.

Graph showing the rise from under 6 to over 11 million for the expanded unemployment number. Courtesy of economist Mike Schussler @mikeschussler

Unemployment at yet another record high

The urgent need for a jobs focus in official policy was shown this week when unemployment figures reached yet another record high.

Stats SA reported that the official unemployment rate has gone up only slightly – from 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021. But it’s yet another record, with 7.2 million people out of work. That’s 1.4 million more than a year ago.

The expanded definition, which includes those who have given up looking for a job, is now at 43.2%. The frightening fact is that most of the unemployed are young. Joblessness for those between 15 and 34 years who were not in employment or in education and training is up to 43.6% of the 20 million in this category.

Getting them jobs has to be a top priority.