Don’t raise false expectations

Promising decent jobs without explaining what these are, and then giving grants to the unemployed, encourages people not to seek work.

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I’m often puzzled by what labour organisations and government mean when discussing ‘decent’ jobs. What is a decent job? How do you differentiate between a decent and a non-decent job?  The problem with this sort of vagueness is that people start to demand ‘decent’ jobs based on their own understanding of the term. And I doubt whether most of our unemployed, especially the youth, would regard working for long hours in the sun and rain as ‘decent’, especially on a farm worker’s wage.

To many, the only decent job involves sitting at a desk in an air-conditioned office. The trouble is that decent jobs are often promised to people without a matriculation certificate or appropriate skills. Workers such as these are often employed within agriculture and construction, and a closer look shows that the number of foreign nationals employed in these two sectors is increasing rapidly. Why? Could it be because South Africans are waiting for those ‘decent’ jobs they’ve been promised?

At a recent function, the North West MEC for agriculture, Boitumelo Tshwene, said that most farmers in the province employed foreign nationals. But he could not blame them, as South Africans were “lazy and spoilt”. Not pulling any punches, Tshwene said that on a recent trip to Nigeria, he was told how lazy South Africans were and was embarrassed to even admit where he was from.

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After the function, I heard these same sentiments echoed by a farmer, who went one step further, blaming the country’s grant system for this laziness. His question was simple: why would people seek work on farms if government already supported them? In addition to raising unrealistic expectations about decent jobs, government is encouraging people to sit at home!

A young woman with four children gets a monthly grant almost equal to a farm worker’s minimum wage. How on earth can you possibly convince someone like this to seek hard work while paying her almost the same to do nothing? South Africa is sitting with a vast unemployment problem. You would think that government would be actively encouraging people to work. Instead, it seems hell-bent on doing exactly the opposite