South Africa

Ramaphosa’s job creation promise just hot air

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise to create 2.5 million job opportunities for the next five years sounds good but is highly unlikely to be fulfilled

This is the view of labour lawyer Michael Bagraim, who told eNCA that the Presidential Employment Stimulus is “quite frankly pie in the sky”.

His comments come after the launch of the ANC’s election manifesto, in which the ruling party promised voters that it would create 2.5 million work opportunities in the next five years.

Bagraim said this is not a new promise, as Rampahosa has made similar commitments in nearly every State of the Nation Address he’s given.

“Let’s face it, it’s a wonderful promise, and it goes a little bit of the way to try and solve some of our unemployment,” he said.

“The real problem is that the President’s promise is not going to be fulfilled. It hasn’t been fulfilled.”

He said the ANC’s promise has two major faults that will prevent the party from improving South Africa’s unemployment rate.

The first problem is that the ANC promises to create 2.5 million “work opportunities” – not jobs. 

“A work opportunity could be 3 days, 5 days, or two months, and we don’t know what it will pay. We know that the Extended Public Works Program even pays half the minimum wage,” Bagraim said. 

“The government says it can’t afford to pay the minimum wage, so it’s going to probably be that sort of work opportunity which is not a job and is not sustainable.”

The second problem Bagraim identified is that the government is not there to create jobs. Rather, the government is there to create an opportunity for the business community to create jobs.

Bagraim explained that everywhere in the world, the business community creates jobs, while the government must create the environment for job creation. 

“By the time the government decides to move away from that concept of government creating jobs, we’ll be bankrupt, and we almost are,” he said. 

“We’ve had now just over 20 years of job losses from year to year, and it’s sad that that is happening because this is not politics – this is the living reality of South Africans,” he said. 

“So, this whole idea of the Presidential Employment Stimulus is quite frankly pie in the sky. It’s a little bit like the bullet train or the smart cities.” 

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warned last year that South Africa’s high unemployment rate, particularly among its youth, is a “ticking time bomb” that could result in social unrest. 

The UNDP’s South Africa National Human Development Report for 2022 focused on analysing South Africa’s youth employability. 

“Youth unemployment in South Africa is a multipronged challenge that limits the earning potential of youth, stymies business growth, threatens social cohesion, and puts pressure on public resources,” the report said. 

“There is no doubt that the high unemployment rate is a ticking time bomb.”

The Spectator Index’s 2023 youth unemployment rate list reveals that South Africa has the worst youth unemployment among all included countries.

South Africa has over 10 million young people aged 15-24 years. Of these, only 2.5 million were in the labour force, either employed or unemployed.


Top JSE indices