Conference Paper/Report

The Growth Agenda: Making South Africa More Labour Intensive

On 13 June 2018 CDE hosted a roundtable discussion on the critical questions of why economic activity in South Africa is not more labour-intensive given the vast number of jobless adults. What prevents employers from making use of the energies of more people? Why are industries that do use lots of labour in decline? What can be done to reset these trends and set the economy on a
more labour-intensive growth path? To answer these questions, we gathered experts on the labour market from government and the academe, as well as senior business people from a range of economic sectors. The conversation was organised into four sessions, with the first focusing on whether and to what extent public policy has pushed South Africa onto a less labour-intensive growth path. The second focused on specific sectors that have historically absorbed large numbers of workers – agriculture and clothing manufacturing – but which are now employing fewer people per unit of output, and asks why this might be so. The third looked at specific sectors that have the potential to employ more people, specifically the business process outsourcing industry, manufacturing and infrastructure investment. The final session asked to what extent standalone projects can help address the challenge, and focused on the Youth Employment Service (YES) and the Jobs Fund.