Govt fails to prioritise skills – PMI
According to John Botha from PMI, if the youth wage subsidy issue had received as much attention as the tolling issue in the national budget, government’s assurances to create jobs in 2012-2013 would be more plausible.
Speaking in Johannesburg this morning, Botha, executive director for strategy at PMI, said in the face of alarming levels of youth unemployment, the wage subsidy is a matter of national urgency and needed decisive and immediate action.
First mooted as far back as 2009, the youth wage subsidy motivates employers to provide work for people below the age of 29.
“Its adoption will take young people – many of whom are neither working nor in the education system – off the streets and into the workplace where they can both earn and learn. The clear message from government is that the issue of tolling far outweighs job creation and training,” he said.
He added that private employers were hoping for additional, meaningful incentives to employ.
“Coupled with increasing electricity costs, tolls and other outlays, there are fewer and fewer reasons why business would want to involved in growing employment levels. Minister Gordhan also paid lip service to boosting skills, yet offered no tangible interventions to deliver skills that are relevant and quality-driven into the South African economy,” said Botha.
He added that all the grand initiatives and policy levers mentioned by Gordhan – like growing infrastructure spending and becoming competitive in the global environment – directly depend on the right kinds and levels of skills.
“It is a case of huge amounts of money and zero genuine capacity creation – and it’s very disturbing. This budget is ‘government’s budget for government’ and completely demeans the role the private sector has to play,” he explained.
Botha conceded that the public sector’s work in stabilising the economy during the economic and financial crisis was admirable, but went on to say that real and sustainable growth, accompanied by equity, employment and poverty reduction, could only take place with the private sector’s involvement.
“It is difficult to muster up enthusiasm about the R25 billion set aside in the budget for the private sector’s participation in economic growth projects given the total lack of expediency that employers already experience with government agencies,” said Botha.
“More serious are the SETA regulations and the tax laws around learnerships, which are becoming onerous, increasing costs and time-consuming virtually impossible to fully comply with, thus thwarting business’ desire to go through with learnerships and apprenticeships.”
Botha added that the experience and the will that exists within the private sector to train, develop skills and create jobs are largely overlooked.
“Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are vital if Gordhan’s increased-spend on public education is to be properly planned and implemented over phases, a scenario which has the potential to deliver real return on investment. South Africa spends more than our fellow BRIC countries on skills development per capita yet our certification percentages are dismal, and the skills we are producing are not relevant,” noted Botha.
Botha welcomed the R300 million for job creation in the arts and culture sector and the mention of the national tooling initiative for accelerated apprentice training, but said that far more needed to be done.