The Mercury

Patel should listen to civil society carefully

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In Business Report on May 31, Minister of Economic Developmen­t Ebrahim Patel asks for help from civil society, but does he really listen?

And why does he still want to talk after the big “plan” has been outlined. My sense is that not a lot of people have bought into the “plan” because it is totally flawed and does not deal with the reasons for unemployme­nt and how to solve it. Mr Patel mentions we have plenty of skills, when everyone is saying the complete opposite.

I remember meeting Department of Labour heads and using the term unskilled. They almost throttled me and said the term should be low skilled and that everyone had a skill. We sat gobsmacked as they used a sheepherde­r as an example of a person with skills. Okay, I said, but would that get him a “decent job”? My sense is that civil society is not recognised in the debate for jobs because most of those who work with the unemployed disagree with what Mr Patel wants to do in his plan.

Civil society says the unemployed are unskilled and together with terrible education and the rigidity of the labour market people stay unemployed.

If I contribute to the debate as civil society and am critical and mention issues and facts Mr Patel doesn’t want to hear then I am ostracised. So much for listening.

Unemployed people who are low-or unskilled need to work in low-level jobs, build experience over time, and prove themselves in the workplace so they can then get a decent job. This is a generation­al thing that will change over time as parents give their children better opportunit­ies through education.

This is very doable but requires flexibilit­y, not rigidity. I agree with Mr Patel that there is no blueprint but we are at the point of micro-policies, helping people on the ground feed themselves, rather than focusing on macro interventi­ons.

And yes Mr Patel, economics is a simple thing and the fundamenta­ls are always the same. There is a huge supply of unskilled masses and a low demand for them.

If the government through its rigidity cannot see this then the number of social grantees will increase, as they are, and reach a tipping point where the country can no longer afford the grants and these grantees will forever be unemployed and their children cannot make the generation­al changes we need.

So, Mr Patel, maybe you should listen to different parts of civil society, especially your biggest critics, as they care for the interests of the unemployed only and have been listening to them for a long, long time. CHARLES MAISEL VIA E-MAIL

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