Jobs for the Jobless initiative

Dear Editor

“One single idea can be much more powerful than one thousand actions.” The Democratic Alliance cannot agree more with this statement, which came from a judge when he adjudicated the book Jobs for the Jobless by Eustace Davie, published by the Free Market Foundation of Southern Africa. With this the Free Market Foundation won the Templeton Freedom Award in the category Free Market Solutions to Poverty.

The Templeton Freedom Awards for Promoting Liberty is the largest international awards programme for think tanks.

The director of the Free Market Foundation, Temba A. Nolutshungu, said of the award the “single idea” referred to by the judge is the proposal that unemployed people should be allowed to decide for themselves what amount of wages and conditions of employment they find acceptable and to negotiate with prospective employers on that basis.

What the Free Market Foundation proposes with the Jobs for the Jobless initiative is that anyone who is unemployed for six months or more should have the right to a Special Exemption (SPEX) Certificate, valid for two years, that exempts the certificate holder from statutory labour laws.

An important condition of the exemption, contained in the proposal, is that written contracts specifying the most important conditions of their employment agreements, be entered into between SPEX holders and their employers. At the expiry of the stipulated contractual period, the employee can then renegotiate with the employer as to whether the SPEX proposal should fall away and be supplanted by working conditions in terms of existing labour legislation.

Government should give these principles serious thought, because – as the Free Market Foundation rightly points out – the unemployed must be given the opportunity to make their own way in life, to regain their self-respect and the respect of their families and friends.

With a SPEX certificate, the jobless will be able to scour the job market for a job they can enter into on their own terms: they will learn skills; they will become self supporting; they will regain their self-respect; and the ills of mass unemployment and poverty will diminish.

This is a practical way for government to set the unemployed free.

Pine Pienaar
Chief Whip, Democratic Alliance,
Bhisho Legislature