South Africa’s economy has started to show positive signs of recovery but it will take time to recover from the job losses of a recession in 2009, said President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma’s administration has vowed to tackle unemployment which stands at about a quarter of the 17 million-strong labour force. Rampant unemployment has kept many blacks in poverty 16 years after the end of apartheid.
There has been an increasing number of protests in townships across the country as many poor South Africans demand better living conditions and basic services like water and electricity from the government, Reuters reports.
South Africans will vote in local government elections in May, and the ruling African National Congress is widely expected to retain control of many municipalities, despite dissatisfaction over jobs.
South Africa lost more than a million jobs during its recession in 2009, the first since 1992.
“The employment numbers have recently turned positive and the economic forecasts are also positive, both for higher economic growth and for employment creation,” Zuma said in a speech at a labour summit with unions.
“Nevertheless, it is likely to take longer for us to recover from the job losses of the 2009 recession and to make a real dent in the 24 percent unemployment rate that characterises the labour market.”
In February’s budget, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan allocated about 20 billion rand towards job-creation projects in line with the government’s aim to create about 5 million jobs by 2020.
Zuma said achieving that target would mean reducing the unemployment rate to around 15 percent.
Zuma rose to the ruling African National Congress’s top position with help from the unions, who wanted more leftist policies.
He told the unions that the government was committed to addressing labour practises that rob workers of their rights.
“We are now taking steps to implement the undertaking we made that we will address the problems of labour broking and regulate out-sourcing and contract work,”
Some proposed labour regulations, which include increasing benefits to contract workers, have unsettled investors who say the country’s labour laws are already restrictive, making it difficult to hire and fire.