Wednesday, January 26

Unemployment is everyone’s problem, good intentions are not enough

This week, the South African government released the latest unemployment figures. They are not unexpected, but they are heartbreaking and damning. At 34.9%, South Africa has the highest official unemployment rate in the world. Add in the expanded definition that includes discouraged job applicants and others who are not economically active and that’s a staggering 46.6%.

But the percentages allow us to look the other way unless we realize that this expanded unemployment rate translates to nearly 11 million people, people like us, who are jobless, not in training, and have no means to support themselves. themselves or their families. It is a catastrophe.

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A whole industry has emerged to support the goal of small business development. Everywhere we look, we read about new job creation initiatives, youth development programs, business and supplier development activities, and joint private sector and government initiatives (such as the Youth Employment Service). [YES programme]), aimed at encouraging employers to hire job seekers and make the task easier for them.

But somehow, despite billions of rand invested by the private sector and serious, if sometimes clumsy, efforts by the government to reverse the relentless downward trend, we (and here we include ourselves, as business growth specialists) we are failing miserably at change. the lives of those who need it most.

The water does not flow down the hill and people are dying of thirst.

The truth is that, to absorb the almost 8 million job seekers, who constitute 34.9%, we would need to create 22,000 jobs a day for a year. That’s the equivalent of starting and launching four businesses the size of Vodacom, every day. For a whole year.

Clearly, we are not even scratching the surface by doing what we have been doing for the last 25 years.

We need a radically different strategy, a new level of bravery, and a nation-first mentality. There are three things we can do immediately to change this course:

Radical action 1 – stop checking boxes

The government has created a well-funded ecosystem of job creation and business support organizations, including the Small Business Development Agency, the Small Business Finance Agency, the Industrial Development Corporation, the Department of Commerce, Industry and Competition, the Small Business Department. Business development, among others. This ecosystem is reinforced by hundreds, if not thousands, of private business development support organizations of different sizes and areas of focus.

A common blind spot in the industry is measurement. The inputs are measured: how many people trained, how many business plans were written, how many logos were developed, how many hours of tutoring they spent, how much money was loaned, etc. But what really counts is the measurement of significant and lasting impact: how many successful, self-sustaining businesses have been created.

In a country desperate for economic growth and jobs, we should only measure our success in terms of growth: if the company increased its turnover and profits, it stayed in business longer thanks to our support and how many jobs have been created and sustained?

Clearly, if we need results, we must invest in and support organizations that know how to build businesses that create jobs and last. There can be no awards for effort when the stakes are so high. You cannot feed a family with a business plan.

Radical action 2 – stop being so valuable

There is a tendency in the highly competitive business sector for people to play their cards very close to their chests, a culture of jealously protecting intellectual property and distrusting collaboration with other players. In the realm of job creation, this mindset is petty, creates silos and crushes innovation.

We tackle other crises collaboratively. It is certainly time to start working together and uniting our respective strengths to create solutions that are national, transformative, and far greater than any of us can deliver on our own. Without that mindset, we will never make a dent in improving the lives of an ever-increasing number of people out of work and without hope for a better future.

Radical action 3 – softens the blow

Finally, we must face the difficult truth, which is that in our lifetime we will never create all the jobs we need to meet the needs of our growing population. Despite a passionate effort, we’ve only created eight million jobs since 1994 and we don’t have the luxury of another 25 years to create the next eight million.

Given this harsh reality, it is clear that we need a mitigation strategy, a kind of retention pattern, that focuses on improving the lives of the unemployed now, while removing the structural problems that hamper our economic growth.

We need a radical increase in the funding available and the support of social enterprises and nonprofits that fill the gaps where the government lacks the resources or manpower to provide these services.

We need support for organizations that provide access to health care, decent education, adequate sports and recreational facilities, social services for the elderly and vulnerable, and the list goes on.

We need to actively support the ecosystem that is motivated and empowered to create solutions to care for those who lack resources.

There are only two options. We can ignore the need for a change or embrace it with unabashed courage. It is time to admit that our collective strategies have failed and to have the courage to adopt radical new ways of solving unemployment. It is time to genuinely address the needs of the millions of our population who have been marginalized for too long.

Let’s discard what is not being met and radically change our approach. Let’s work together and make a difference. Good intentions are not enough.

Catherine Wijnberg is CEO and Anton Ressel is Senior Consultant at Fetola

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