Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Mark Barnes has quite rightly looked at the Chinese way of tackling unemployment (Taking jobs to the people like the Chinese are doing solves employment conundrum, April 10).

We in SA are facing what appears to be an insurmountable unemployment problem. Already we have almost 55% youth unemployment, and this figure is set to grow unless we very quickly move away from our current way of thinking.

The Chinese decided to build factories where the people were (avoiding enormous expenses with regard to travelling and enormous loss of travelling time).

We still suffer badly from the old apartheid spatial planning, where our workforce sometimes has to spend over half their wages on travel. Our government could very quickly give incentives to developers who would in turn build factories and manufacturing plants close to the people.

Our labour legislation still views the concept of employment as a nine-to-five job from the age of 17 to 65 with one employer. The world has moved on. The international mindset has changed, and today every worker is regarded as an entrepreneur. Productive individuals are only given work if the relationship is beneficial both to the individual and the employer.

Barnes says "a mindset change is needed; a move away from centralised employer power to decentralise economic enablement, right down to the individual".

When we look at distrupters such as Uber and millions of internet-based businesses, it is clear that he is right. We in SA can’t seem to grasp the fact that the economy has already changed, and we are competing in a world where productivity rules supreme. We merely try to pass labour legislation that makes it more difficult to dismiss people, and certainly acts as a handbrake when businesses are thinking of employing people.

When Barnes says we need to "replace corporate footprints with revenue-sharing service-level agreements" he is categorically pointing out that we need to embrace the next industrial revolution instead of trying to fight it. It was Karl Marx who said "you can’t stop the wind with your hands". Unless South African labour legislation recognises and embraces the new economy, we are going to have many millions more unemployed.

Michael Bagraim
MP DA labour spokesman

Please sign in or register to comment.