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Ramaphosa calls for national action to boost employment

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BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – NOVEMBER 15; 2018: President of South Africa Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa is talking to media at the end of an EU – South-Africa Summit meeting on climate change, migration to trade and security, in the Europa, the EU Council headquarter on November 15, 2018. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday called on all nationals to work towards a rapid rebound in employment after 2.2 million jobs were lost nationwide in the second quarter of 2020.

“Our success in responding to this unprecedented crisis will be measured by the speed of our labor market recovery,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa made the remarks after data released by Statistics South Africa revealed that South Africa’s unemployment rate fell to 23.3 percent in the second quarter from 30.1 percent in the first quarter due to fewer people looking for work amid the nation’s strict coronavirus lockdown. It marks the lowest rate since the third quarter of 2009.

“This sharp fall in the unemployment rate in quarter two is not a reflection of an improvement in the labor market but rather an effect of the national lockdown, since the official definition of unemployment requires that people look for work and are available for work,” said the statistics body in its quarterly labor survey report.

“We must ensure that every job lost during the crisis is replaced and more jobs are created so that we can meaningfully reduce unemployment,” Ramaphosa said, adding that the cabinet is finalizing a program for a return to growth and a rebound in employment.

Structural reforms, investment in infrastructure, and other measures will play a crucial role in boosting the recovery of the labor market in the medium term, he said.

The government has set up the unemployment insurance fund to provide over 43 billion rand (about 2.5 billion U.S. dollars) in temporary relief to more than 4 million workers in efforts to prevent further job losses and keep businesses alive, the president added.

Besides, additional social protection measures have been provided to over 16 million South Africans, more than a quarter of the country’s population, during the lockdown, he said.

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