by Chiara Baumann

Getting SA working

The unemployment rate should be declared a state of emergency

Create employment and cater for basic human needs
SA's employment is a work in progress

The recent Census places unemployment at 29.8% while some believe the expanded definition to be closer to 40%.

In South Africa, we are skirting the severity of the situation. Anyone who follows the news will be aware of pockets of incredibly violent protests across the country. We should not ignore these warning signs. We need to urgently shift our focus from the notion of jobs; and shift it to the concept of work.

Government continues to highlight the three key issues that need to be addressed, namely unemployment, poverty, and inequality. However, if we focused solely on the issue of unemployment the other two would, over time, start to right themselves.

We are not going to solve the unemployment issue in South Africa by creating jobs. Rather, we need to get people working, today. We need to place them into work opportunities. Government is struggling to create enough jobs through large-scale infrastructure projects. Let alone, lasting jobs.

The business sector is not able to absorb the mass of unemployed people at a rate that will have any impact in relation to the growing numbers. SMEs and entrepreneurship will make but a minor dent to the unemployment figures.

Although economies are not growing as they should and the process of distributive justice is severely challenged, especially in South Africa, there is still work to be done - a lot of it. Economies can no longer guarantee secure, contractual jobs with benefits.

Jobs are taking on more temporary natures such as part-time, semi-permanent, and casual. If people are working, they will start spending more in their communities and the logical process of demand and supply will spurt economic growth. Getting people to work gives people exposure to new skills, opportunity to improve their CVs, and most importantly a sense of purpose. Studies across the globe stress the importance of peopleʼ s need for a sense of purpose as it satisfies other fundamental components of the human psyche, such as a sense of worth, dignity and pride.

DreamWorker is a registered Non-Profit and Public-Benefit Organisation with a BEE level 4. Inspires, uplifting and giving hope to the unemployed, thereby maximising their chances of securing work. One-on-one interviews are conducted, which includes worker readiness and mentoring for each work seeker. 

Emphasis is placed on identifying skills gaps, personality traits, and appropriate training referral to enhance employability. Strong ties with the private sector are cultivated. The model has been fine-tuned to function at an optimal level as a professional work seeking placement process and is ready to be replicated across the country.

DreamWorker has been most successful in helping unemployed beneficiaries not only find work but also give each and every one of them tools to empower themselves. Since inception from a single office, DreamWorker has engaged and registered over 7000 unemployed people and continues to engage with an additional 2000 people per year. Work placements of over 300 000 days of work have been recorded, translating into wages of over R40 million.

DreamWorker has created its own work creation programme called Link of Love. A day of work can be sponsored for R100, which enables an unemployed person to work in their community – caring for the sick or elderly, tending community gardens etc. This programme is geared towards creating work opportunities and  uplifting poor communities. The success and the demand for the programme is growing rapidly.

Governmentʼ s lack of understanding about the nature of the problem of unemployment and the solutions thereof is frustration. If we donʼ t all approach the issue together, our efforts are going to be fragmented and the impact minor. Additionally, every day DreamWorker staff come into contact with work seekersʼ  alarmingly low numeracy and literacy levels. This is compounded by the lack of preparedness for the world of work and general life skills.

South Africa does not have time and funds to create new, sustainable jobs. The country needs to get people working today. There is work, we simply need to set about getting people into those opportunities. 

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