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Economic Policy

Towards 2029: The DA’s 5-Point “Jobs” Plan for Economic Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity

“We are not yet free… We have merely achieved the freedom to be free.” – Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1995)

For too many South Africans, the political freedom achieved in 1994 has not been matched with economic freedom. The fact that one out of every four South Africans does not have a job is the clearest and most devastating expression of this lack of economic freedom.

The unemployed are unfree. And so we need to prioritise jobs as a passport to freedom.

Unemployment fuels poverty and inequality. Currently, more than four out of every ten South Africans live below the poverty line. Ours remains one of the most unequal societies in the world.

The legacy of apartheid casts a long shadow. It continues to hold back many black South Africans from enjoying equal access to economic opportunities. It is one of the main structural causes of poverty and inequality. That is why the DA supports measures to redress the legacy of the past, provided they broaden opportunities beyond an elite band of beneficiaries and promote growth and jobs.

Yet, even in spite of the legacy of apartheid, we should be much further down the road towards economic freedom. Since 1994, one of the biggest obstacles in our way has been the failure of the economy to create enough jobs. High levels of unemployment fuel poverty and inequality. In fact, they are the root cause of almost all of our overlapping economic, social and political problems.

According to the Centre for Development and Enterprise, by some measures, South Africa’s unemployment crisis is the deepest in the world. Almost no other country in the world is as bad at creating jobs as South Africa. In developing countries like India and Mexico, on average, 60% of adults are employed. In South Africa, the figure is around 40%.

Our unemployment rate is 26% under the “narrow” definition of those actively looking for work, and 36% under the “expanded” definition that includes discouraged jobseekers. This is extremely high by international standards.

Youth are the worst affected.

Statistics South Africa calculates the unemployment rate among youth between the ages of 15 and 24 at 63%. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Risks report, South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates for youth between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world, along with Greece and Spain, at 50%.

According to the South African Institute of Race Relations, our overall unemployment rate is substantially higher than those of Brazil and Russia (6% each), India (9%), and China (4%). Although it is roughly the same as Greece’s (25%), our unemployment rate comes on the back of five years of tepid economic growth, whereas Greece’s comes on the back of five years of economic recession.

No country can create jobs or include more people in the economy without economic growth. This insight informs The DA’s Plan for Growth and Jobs, first published in July 2012, and updated in 2014.

Our Plan aims to create the conditions for the South African economy to grow at 8% by:

  • Providing policy direction and coherence on the economy;
  • Managing public money better;
  • Increasing investment and savings;
  • Supporting redress measures to broaden participation in the economy; and,
  • Boosting trade with other countries, especially our African neighbours, so that businesses can grow and create jobs.

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