Meth, Charles (2009). Unemployment and poverty halved by 2014? School of Development Studies Working Paper No 56.The paper examines the South African government’s mandate to halve unemployment and poverty by 2014, noting the obstinacy with which officials and politicians cling to the belief that the goals will be met, despite growing evidence of the unlikelihood of this happening. The impact of the current international crisis on employment and unemployment is examined, showing that the progress made since 2006 has been wiped out. Confusion over economic performance in 2009 is considered, then an attempt is made to guesstimate unemployment levels in 2014. The calculations take into account the contributions to be made by Phase 2 of the EPWP. It is shown that unless a miracle occurs, there is no possibility that unemployment will be halved by 2014. There is a brief discussion on the merits of the EPWP and the Community Work Programme (CWP).
The inadequacies of the comprehensive social security that government is constitutionally obliged to provide are highlighted by the likelihood that in 2014, there will still be between three and five million unemployed lacking any kind of income protection.
Government’s failure to apply its collective mind to the basic income grant (BIG) proposed by the Taylor Committee (DoSD, 2002) is examined, and an attempt to discover who is to blame for this neglect is undertaken.
Because of their vital role in charting progress (or the lack thereof) in the pursuit of the poverty-halving goal, poverty statistics are of obvious importance. Unfortunately, they leave a great deal to be desired. Disagreements among academics on the severity of poverty is traced to the failure by Statistics South Africa to conduct adequate surveys on poverty. Misuse of fragile poverty estimates by government to place its performance in the best possible light is revealed. A little speculation on what poverty levels might have been had the AIDS epidemic not killed so many people is attempted.
The likelihood of poverty being halved is argued to be remote – estimates published by the Presidency, which may or may not be robust, suggest that the poverty headcount has risen by 3.2 million between 1995 and 2008.
Dr Charles Meth
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