Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane has called on business to stave off retrenchments to bolster their revenue.
Mabuyane was responding to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), released by Stats SA on Tuesday.
The report revealed that the Eastern Cape recorded the highest unemployment rate among the country’s provinces, at 36.9% in the second quarter.
The expanded unemployment rate for the Eastern Cape is at 52.8%, up from 48.9% in the first quarter, and it is the worst-performing province in the country.
The report also revealed that Nelson Mandela Bay is bleeding jobs, with the unemployment rate in the city now at 40%.
Mabuyane said the “painful” figures were to be expected due to the closure of the economy during the lockdown.
“The pandemic hit us at a time when our economy was not enjoying positive growth, but the pandemic made things worse as the rollout of some major programmes whose multiplier effect had [a] positive injection, got delayed.”
Mabuyane said he had high hopes that the economic recovery plan started by President Cyril Ramaphosa would improve the province’s economy.
“The socioeconomic relief packages that the government made available to companies for the benefit of those companies and their employees saved many other workers from losing their jobs.
“We want to encourage private companies not to use retrenchments as a means to save revenue for their businesses.
“They should find smart business strategies to protect jobs and [the] livelihood of workers, while ensuring profitability of their businesses.”
He said the provincial government remained steadfast in pursuing a 5% economic growth figure, increasing the investment rate to 27% and reducing unemployment to 10% by 2030.
“All the catalytic infrastructure projects, some which were approved by the national government for implementation in our province, have multiplier effects that will buoy our provincial economy to growth,” Mabuyane said.
“Our priority is that through these investments, we want to connect the provincial economy with the national economy as an active role player in the economic growth of our country.
“For this to happen, we need labour, business and communities to work with the government, and in the process of that work, we must continue to fight corruption so that money allocated for economic growth and development programmes are not stolen from the public purse.”
According to the QLFS, the unemployment rate in the metro rose sharply from 35.8% in the first quarter of 2020 to 40.4% in the second quarter, during the worst phase of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Overall, SA saw 2.2-million job losses in the second quarter, the data showed.
In the Eastern Cape, construction took the biggest knock with 51,000 jobs lost in the second quarter.
This was followed by community and social services (38,000), trade (29,000) and finance (28,000).