In response to the cost-of-living crisis, Employment and Labour Minister, T.W Nxesi, has announced the Department’s budget vote for the 2023/24 fiscal year. The budget plan aims to alleviate unemployment, create and preserve jobs, and promote equity in the workplace, amid other initiatives.
Nxesi highlighted that the Department will continue to support the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s (UIF) Labour Activation Programme (LAP), which funds projects to maintain and create employment. He also mentioned the ongoing review of UIF’s funding model to increase support for job creation.
The minister reiterated that the Temporary Employer Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) would continue providing assistance to distressed companies aiming to retain their employees. He also confirmed a target to recruit 240,000 people for the Employability Enhancement Programme by the end of the Medium Term Strategic Framework.
Underlining the Department’s efforts to promote youth employment, Nxesi announced the implementation of several youth employment projects starting in June. He also pointed out the positive results from the UIF Labour Activation Programmes and Productivity SA Turnaround Strategies, which retained nearly 16,000 jobs at 186 companies facing economic distress.
The Department plans to launch an upgraded Employment Services System of South Africa (ESSA), an online job matching platform. Furthermore, the Supported Employment Enterprises (SEE) will aim to increase employment for people with disabilities, aiming to raise the number from 940 to 1,250 during the current year.
The Department is also committed to supporting the Pathway Management Network, an initiative that brings together multiple online training and employment opportunities. This is in conjunction with the Presidency and the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC).
On the policy front, Nxesi discussed the draft National Labour Migration Policy (NLMP) and the amended Employment Services, which were unveiled in February 2022 and are currently being revised. He also brought up the National Minimum Wage (NMW) policy, which has already benefited about six million workers, and the forthcoming Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Amendment Bill.
Regarding the National Economic Development and Labour Council’s (NEDLAC) plans for 2023/24, Nxesi mentioned a focus on labor law reforms, remote work, and the transition to new forms of work.
In terms of enforcement, the Department conducted over 100,000 Health and Safety inspections in the past year, with a current focus on Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed companies. The Department also carried out over 300,000 inspections to ensure compliance with the NMW and Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
Nxesi also addressed the “Follow the Money” programme, which has made significant progress in recovering Covid-19 TERS funds wrongly or fraudulently paid. As of 31 March 2023, the program had recovered R61 million and resulted in 60 arrests, with 12 individuals sentenced.
The budget allocation to the Department for the 2023/24 financial year is just over R4-billion.