Creating jobs and reducing poverty: why not enable the informal sector properly?

Author: Frederick Fourie

President Cyril Ramaphosa aims to set the country on a new path of growth, employment and transformation. Key to this are action plans for employment creation, to be deliberated at a jobs summit.

The South African Informal Sector: Providing jobs, reducing povertyA new edited volume, published by HSRC Press, flags the importance of explicitly addressing the informal sector in such initiatives, given the key role it plays in providing paid employment and reducing poverty. The book is based on research done in the Research Project for Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth (REDI3x3).

This research shows unambiguously that the informal sector is an important source of employment (and of paid employment), with a growing propensity to employ. Regrettably, for many decades the sector has remained forgotten or, at best, in the margins of economic analysis and policy consciousness. Many policy makers appear to group it together with formal SMMEs. Such an approach risks missing key elements of the ‘forgotten’ world of informal enterprises – their potential, the constraints they face, their particular vulnerability, and the policy support they need to be viable and self-standing.

How many jobs are created in the informal sector?

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The folly of creating businesses whilst tolerating a criminal-friendly environment

The South African enterprise world remains in critical condition despite numerous initiatives to cultivate entrepreneurship and new businesses since the real causes undermining its well-being are not addressed.  One of the fundamental causes for a struggling enterprise world is the fact that SA is more criminal-friendly than enterprise friendly.

Mooi River LEGO

We’ve seen that:

Comfortable in this paradigm, Government embarked on an interventionist road to transform the economy in accordance with its perceived reality. It launched a range of black enterprise incubation programs with massive grants, prescriptive procurement strategies, BEE, industry charters, interference with IP and a commitment to even expropriate without compensation.

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Cyril on a tight-rope: Paradox, not policy certainty the outcome of the ANC conference

Will the honeymoon breathing space of optimism that the worst corruption is over and that more business-friendly policies and better public spending behaviour be utilised or wasted? With new reports of the ANC’s national executive committee setting wheels in motion to recall Zuma as president, it is important to note that acting against Zuma would still not set enterprise friendly policies in place.

South Africa’s post-apartheid ANC policies and strategies dealing with enterprise development have been largely driven by an increasingly unfriendly framework for established businesses as well as an anti-growth premise. In the final gasps of December 2017, the ANC Conference even took unanimously policy positions that makes mockery of Ramaphosa’s utterances of making growth the priority.

The decisions to endorse Zuma’s announcement on free tertiary education and to change the Constitution to enable expropriation without compensation, provide ample proof the ANC doesn’t understand what is required to ensure growth and to step back from the fiscal cliff.

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Managing the interface between the formal & informal sectors

Informal traders SBIncreasing the number of micro and informal businesses (in particular survivalists, street vendors, hawkers and spaza shops) is a yard stick by which the progress of the Department of Small Business Development is measured. That is clear from the 2016 report of the Parliamentary Committee on Small Business Development (See https://pmg.org.za/committee-meeting/22352/ ). Whilst supporting the poor is laudable, any strategy that wants to regenerate economic growth has to seriously reconsider this approach. Continue reading “Managing the interface between the formal & informal sectors”