Patel: Youth wage subsidy not the boss
Tackling youth unemployment would take much more than just a youth wage subsidy, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel has said.
Speaking during a heated National Assembly debate on the subsidy, at the DA’s request, Patel yesterday said “there is no one single method to draw young people into employment”.
His speech was highly anticipated after Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on Wednesday deferred opposition questions on the topic, saying yesterday’s debate would be “D-Day” on the matter.
Patel, who was frequently heckled from opposition benches, said the issue was debated in Nedlac – which would also be establishing a special committee on youth unemployment – and the concerned parties had agreed on the need for a “social compact” on how to get young people into work.
“No single mechanism can address the challenge of youth unemployment,” he said.
“We are looking to short- and long-term measures and a package that is proportionate to the scale of the problem.”
He said private- and public-sector initiatives could be added to existing policies like the expanded public works and community work programmes, and government could also help young people put up their own businesses.
He dismissed opposition criticism that government allowed Cosatu during the Nedlac consultations to stall the introduction of the youth wage subsidy, which was supposed to have come into effect on April 1 and for which R5 billion had been budgeted.
“We need to find a consensus method on how to address youth unemployment, instead of a kragdadige (forceful) approach to push through a single measure in the face of opposition from youth organisations and trade unions,” he said.
Patel slammed the DA’s claims that the Western Cape’s introduction of a subsidy for young workers had decreased youth unemployment. He said unemployment had increased since the DA came into power in the province last year, while it decreased in provinces like Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
DA finance spokesperson Tim Harris said Patel’s speech sounded like a death knell to the subsidy, while DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko blamed President Jacob Zuma for his “failure” to implement it.
She said while Zuma was dithering, youth unemployment stood at 3.2 million.
She said the job seekers’ grant the ANC proposed at its policy conference recently, apparently as a substitute for the subsidy, would trap young people “in a never-ending cycle of dependency on the state” instead of giving them “a foothold on the ladder of opportunity”.
The IFP’s Mario Ambrosini told Patel he should push through the subsidy despite Cosatu’s objections.
“If you want to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs,” he said.
FF Plus’ Anton Alberts said the youth wage subsidy should not just be for black young people, but for whites and coloureds too.
ANC MP and Young Communist League general secretary Buti Manamela closed the debate, saying: “The future lies not only in the National Development Plan presented yesterday or the intention to rubbish the national growth path. The future also lies in the national youth employment accord the minister announced today,” he said.