Just as the Covid-19 pandemic has tested our resolve as a nation and united us as a people, it has also demonstrated once again that community and civil society organizations are the lifeblood of this country.
Since the early days of the pandemic, civil society organizations have played a critical role in supporting the public health response and sustaining livelihoods.
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When the government embarked on an extensive aid program to support people in distress, community organizations partnered with us to make it happen. In many ways, this was a true expression of Thuma Mina’s spirit. Among other things, they helped expand shelter services for GBV survivors and kept community early childhood development centers operational. There were many local community kitchens that emerged to cope with hunger, often with the support of local volunteers, restaurant owners, supermarkets, and farmers.
And while meeting the vital needs of the community, these organizations are also creating jobs. This is a strength that we want to take advantage of through the new Social Employment Fund, which has just been launched as part of the second phase of the Presidential Employment Stimulus.
Through this fund, non-governmental, community and civil society organizations, as well as social enterprises, will be supported to create jobs while doing work that serves the common good and is non-profit.
This could include work promoting food safety, health care, supporting education, greening the environment, improving public spaces, community safety, and action against gender-based violence.
The Social Employment Fund is expected to create around 50,000 job opportunities. A total of R800 million has been allocated to the fund, which is managed by the Department of Commerce, Industry and Competition and administered by the Industrial Development Corporation.
Applications are now open for organizations to become strategic implementing partners of the fund. These partners must be able to create work for at least 1,000 participants and are expected to reach the employment goal within the first quarter of implementation.
Not less than 80% of the funds received must be spent on salaries. This will ensure that the work supported by the Fund is labor intensive, provides meaningful experience and creates real social value. Social employment is not just about work, but about creating high-quality assets and services for communities.
Public employment programs are particularly important when not enough jobs are created in the private sector. As our economy begins to recover from the effects of Covid-19, public employment fills a vital void as businesses recover and begin hiring again.
The employment opportunities of the Social Employment Fund will be part-time. This means that more people can participate and participants can work and have a secure income for longer. This gives participants time to develop the structure, skills, and networks associated with participating in the work.
Participants will do an average of two work days per week, and we want to encourage the private sector and donor community to support these organizations, which will allow participants to charge more work days per week.
As the International Labor Organization notes, work experience and skills gained through public employment programs can improve a person’s chances of getting a job, becoming self-employed, or starting their own business.
As with the other Presidential Employment Stimulus programs, this fund will have a broader transformative impact by engaging unemployed people to carry out socially worthwhile activities such as educating our youngest citizens, greening our communities, and providing care and support for the most vulnerable in society.
As we strive to recover and rebuild after the pandemic, the Social Employment Fund will not only create more job opportunities and support more livelihoods, but will also be a critical driver of development and social betterment.
Through this fund, and the many organizations it will support, the government aims to mobilize the abundant energy and capabilities of society at large to create work for the common good.