NEW job loss statistics for the Eastern Cape have been met with dismay and calls for economic action by organised labour and business.

The latest Stats SA unemployment rate for the province is 28.3% – 1.3% higher than recent reports – and the expanded unemployment rate (those seeking work and those who have given up) is up from 42% to 43.1%.

The national unemployment rate rose to 25.2%.

The province lost 46 000 jobs between January and March compared to the same period last year.

Cosatu and the Border-kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB) both expressed dismay at the figures while the DA called the stats a bombshell.

Cosatu Eastern Cape provincial secretary Mandla Rayi said: “Last year was declared a year of job creation.

“Premier Noxolo Kieviet and President Jacob Zuma promised jobs. These latest figures are a disappointment.

“We are losing jobs, not creating them. Does government have the capacity to deliver on promises of infrastructure development?”

Eskom and Transet had billions in their budgets to spend on Eastern Cape infrastructure, but this had not happened.

He said the Eastern Cape government’s launch of the provincial jobs strategy later this month had to reveal action.

The union was fed up with promises and plans.

Rayi ran through a list of four government growth and job-creation plans since 2004, which had all fizzled out.

Stakeholders outside of government, such as labour, were now insisting on monitoring and evaluation being carried out quarterly by stakeholders and the government.

Rayi said the government had to also start integrating its job strategy internally within different departments, and externally with nongovernment stakeholders.

BKCOB executive director Les Holbrook said the figures reflected a provincial downward spiral that began five years ago. “We need to take drastic action,” he said.

He welcomed the government’s new economic development initiatives, but cautioned that they should be uncomplicated and accessible.

DA legislature leader Bobby Stevenson described the news as devastating.

“This is shattering for those families who depend on the 46 000 breadwinners who lost their jobs.

“The knock-on effect will be felt throughout the Eastern Cape.

“A job is the best passport out of poverty. We need more jobs, not less, if we are to redress the injustices of the past.”

He said the biggest employment drop in the country had occurred in the Eastern Cape, where employment declined by 3.5% from 1.325 million people to 1.279 million people.

The government’s approach to job creation was not working, he said, and called for a youth wage subsidy as a matter of urgency, saying this would result in 400 000 new jobs for young people nationally.

“Red tape needs to be cut and the labour market reformed. SMMES need better support.

“Our industrial development zones need to be better incentivised and they need to be turned into export processing zones, which generate tens of thousands of jobs worldwide where they are established.

“Provincially we cannot afford to waste a single cent on corruption, maladministration and tender irregularities when these resources could have been more adequately used for job creation activities.

“An analysis of provincial government expenditure budgets over the last three years shows that the lowest increases occurred in the economic cluster of our province.

“What we need in the Eastern Cape is the right environment for job creation. This means an efficient and effective administration, sound infrastructure and a decent education system.

“Until the ANC turns its back on factional politics and puts the people first, the Eastern Cape will continue to suffer and the people will be poorer for it. Only strong and courageous leadership can turn this province around.” —

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