The Budget Speech may seem like a boring, unnecessary annual event, where Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers a speech that is filled with stats that you don’t understand. But it’s important to remember that the government’s budget has an effect on every South African.

The country’s budget is based on the money that you get taxed by the government, which means that the money spent is your money and ultimately you have a right to question how it is used and why.

Some of the highlights from this year’s speech, held on 26 February 2020, included the announcement that tax will not be increasing this year as any tax increase could harm the economy’s ability to recover. Mboweni also announced that South African Airways (SAA) will get about R4 billion over the medium term to repay the airline’s debt. Power utility company Eskom will also be allocated another R43.6 billion of taxpayers’ money to help pay its debts.

However, many South Africans were anticipating the minister to talk about one important point: unemployment. Mboweni did not mention unemployment. He did, briefly, mention youth unemployment, but young people are not the only South Africans who are unemployed. This begs the questions – is enough being done to ease the current state of unemployment in the country?

How bad is unemployment in South Africa?

According to StatsSA the working population in 2019 was about 38,6 million, between the ages 15-64 years. StatsSA also estimates that about 6,7 million South Africans are unemployed.

A report released in 2019 by StatsSA showed that employment did not increase in the final quarter of 2019, in fact it dropped by eight thousand people. This was the first time that the unemployment rate had not increased in a decade. This decrease was too insignificant to affect the unemployment rate however and the rate remains at 29.1% . This instilled a sense of doom in many citizens about the fact that Eskom will be getting more funds; this announcement left many people feeling forgotten by government.

It should also be highlighted that many people have lost the will to even look for jobs because they have been looking for so long. StatsSA says that in 2019 the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 44 000. People have been looking for jobs, any type, for so long that they have given up the hope that they might find anything.

Is youth unemployment being prioritised?

Youth unemployment should be a bigger priority. There are graduates sitting with degrees and not able to find jobs. There are young people who haven’t finished matric (maybe because of circumstances at home) and as a result they can’t find any job opportunities.

At the State of the Nation Address in 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s response to youth unemployment was:

“Our first priority is to create a National Pathway Management Network for young work-seekers to view and access learning and work opportunities, to receive a basic package of support and work readiness training, and to be matched to employment and other economic opportunities. This is especially important for those young people who are marginalised and excluded from the economy.”

Following the president, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni had this to say:

“We will reprioritise resources to raise spending on youth unemployment. We will start work immediately! I will provide more details in the 2020 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement. Raising skills and improving the matching of young people and jobs is an important focus for us.”

Youth lacking opportunities is nothing new, neither are promises from government. From both of these statements we get words and promises but no action yet. Now you can begin to understand why regular South Africans are starting to give up hope on finding jobs. It also doesn’t help when the President says:

“Even if we were to marshal every single resource at our disposal and engage in huge expenditure of public funds, we would not be able to guarantee employment to the millions of people who are out of work.”

The budget speech failed to fully detail and put forward a plan that will help combat unemployment. It felt like no clear decisions was made for the future. Empty promises will do nothing but frustrate everyone. How the government chooses to spend money affects every citizen who pays tax. Every South African should care how the money is spent so they can hold government accountable for the promises it makes.


Tell us: Do you think enough is being done to combat unemployment in South Africa?