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The employment result for the first quarter (Q1) of 2022, which were announced by Stats SA in its Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), showcase the continued importance of the agricultural sector as an employer – especially in a country characterised by endemic unemployment.
While Agri SA notes that employment in the sector decreased by 23 000 jobs quarter on quarter, from 868 000 in Q4 of 2021, to 845 000 in Q1 of 2022, it is pleased that, year-on-year (y/y), employment numbers are up by 52 000 jobs (having stood at 792 000 in Q1 of 2021), which equates to 6,6% growth over the period.
Provincial employment numbers for the sector of note include the growth in both the Western Cape, which has gained 68 000 jobs y/y (representing a 49,8% increase), and the Free State, which has gained 29 000 jobs y/y (representing a 52,7% increase). By contrast, year-on-year growth figures were down in both KwaZulu-Natal, which has lost 44 000 jobs (representing a 34,2% decrease), and Gauteng, which has lost 15 000 jobs (representing a 34,7% decrease).
Despite this most recent QLFS showing overall positive results, the sector’s growth continues to be stifled by poor infrastructure such as roads, rail and ports, among many other challenges such as rising input costs. Recently, Agri SA proposed that government consider using increases in the diesel refund system as a targeted intervention to combat rising fuel costs for the agricultural sector.
While government has subsequently indicated a short-term extension of relief from the general levy, should oil prices remain high, the diesel refund system remains a relatively fiscally viable option in future. Farmers do not control food prices beyond their gate. However, assistance to contain this particular input cost would also help promote food security.
What needs to be addressed?
It is vital that these and other challenges facing the sector be addressed if it is to reach the goals set out for it in the National Development Plan (NDP) by 2030 – particularly of achieving one million jobs in the sector. Agriculture is a critical partner for job creation in rural areas of South Africa, and employment in the sector has even more potential for poverty alleviation.
The recently signed Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP) has the potential to be a catalyst for assessing the primary drivers of job creation in the agricultural sector, particularly in labour-intensive sub-sectors.
A recent study involving Agri SA and the Institute of Future Research (which focussed on the future of work in the agricultural sector to alleviate poverty) found that it is necessary to ensure that growth in the sector has an influence on low income and poor SA citizens’ earnings. There are numerous ways of achieving this, including linking farmers to markets, bolstering agri-businesses, and producing non-farm income in rural areas, all of which would help to boost income and create jobs.
Proactive policies are needed to achieve this and make agriculture sustainable, support smallholder farmers to grow and become bigger employers, as well as escalate infrastructure development.
Agri SA and its members are committed to working with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the agricultural sector continues to provide much-needed employment and growth for South Africa. – Press release, Agri SA