Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has pinned his hopes on mass COVID-19 vaccination to reverse South Africa’s high unemployment rate.
In a statement on Wednesday, Nxesi said mass vaccination “could restart the economy and lead to increase in employment.”
Vaccinate ‘at the earliest chance’
“It [is] important for all eligible people in South Africa to vaccinate at the earliest chance so as to allow the economy to fully open so that it can start to arrest the runaway train of unemployment,” he explained.
On Tuesday, Statistics South Africa revealed that South Africa’s unemployment rate increased to 34.4 percent in the second quarter of 2021, a record high since the Quarterly Labour Force Survey was started in 2008.
Nxesi said this increase was “relatively expected” because of the slow economic growth experienced in the first quarter and the decline of investment rate in South Africa.
“It should also be noted that the economy has also been severely affected by the necessary lockdown restrictions that have mostly affected non-essential activities because of the pandemic,” he further explained.
“It is for this reason that we urge all the people in South Africa to make themselves available for vaccination so that the lockdown could be lifted once we reach the necessary herd immunity. We believe that this is one of the ways that this country can arrest the shedding of jobs.”
The government hopes to achieve herd immunity once at least 67 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. After the initial vaccine supply constraints, it has now shifted its focus to boosting demand by encouraging more South Africans to vaccinate.
Economic recovery plan
Nxesi also sought to reassure the public that the country stands on “solid ground” because of various employment stimulus packages and infrastructure projects being implemented by the government.
“All these forms part of the Economic Reconstruction Plan that is currently in place. It will also require all social partners to work together and preserve the country economic development prospects that will reduce inequalities and poverty in the long-run,” the Minister said.
“Given the fact that the economy has taken a hit over the last few years and has not recovered to be able to absorb young people in employment, our hope lies on the public employment and our infrastructure build program to provide employment opportunities and to keep the young people engaged.
“As government, we are working closer with our social partners to ensure that the economy reconstruction and recovery plan is being implemented as a matter of urgency. As government, we are optimistic that we will arrest this challenge of unemployment.”