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Policy uncertainty worsens South African agriculture unemployment crisis

The increase in unemployment levels, especially in agriculture is of great concern and deserves President Cyril Ramaphosa’s attention in his new term of office. The recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) results from Statistics SA shows the agricultural sector lost an estimated 12 000 jobs in the first quarter of 2019 on a quarterly basis and 9 000 jobs on an annual basis.

The Eastern Cape lost an enormous 90 000 jobs on an annual basis and brings the extended definition of unemployment to 48.3% for the province. The example that every second adult in the Eastern Cape is unemployed shows the extent of the national unemployment crisis. Policy certainty, strengthening of investor confidence and the real support of the business sector is truly the only way that South Africa’s unemployment crisis can be solved.

“Agri SA has already cautioned in 2018 that policy uncertainty and poor economic growth is seriously hampering the agricultural sector’s ability to create jobs,” said Jahni de Villiers, policy head of Agri SA’s Labour and Development Centre of Excellence. “The agricultural sector’s goal of 1 million jobs according to the National Development Plan will not be reached without consistent support from government. Rising labour costs unfortunately also has a real effect. If these negative trends continue, the unemployment crisis will worsen.”

Agri SA is involved in several official discussion fora on labour policy, such as Nedlac and the National Minimum Wage Commission, and will continue to advocate for the priority of sustainable job creation in agriculture. Other constraints, such as droughts and rural safety obviously also deserves attention in order to improve the current challenging business environment for farmers.

“Agriculture can tackle the unemployment crisis in a big way, but farmers and agri-businesses urgently need policy certainty to do so.”

Agri SA remains committed to an agricultural sector with sustainable growth and will consult further through its structures on grassroots to give greater force to its policy discussions.

Issued by:
Agri SA Labour and Development Centre of Excellence

Jahni de Villiers
Agri SA Policy Head: Labour and Development
(S) 071 603 3804
(E) jahni@agrisa.co.za

Christo van der Rheede
Agri SA: Deputy Executive Director
(C) 083 380 3492