According to the DA’s Lindiwe Mazibuko “the real measure of inequality is between those who have jobs and those who do not” which is what the DA’s “Plan for Growth and Jobs” describes as the “full measurement of inequality”. This is really faulty thinking as it suggests that should everyone have a job, all will be well and inequality will be a thing of the past. It’s not that simple in real life, a life which the DA is clearly not familiar with. A job alone does not automatically lead to closing the inequality gap because having a job does not mean the income will be equally distributed, as evidenced by Lonmin.
She goes on to say that “our plan (which aims to reduce inequality) is designed to place South Africa on a pathway to 8% growth and cut through the widespread poverty that blights our communities”. The party is making the assumption that reducing inequality assures a reduction in poverty, which is not true. Because of the nature of the differences between the two, inequality and poverty will respond differently to “growth”.
Many employed South Africans live in poverty simply because the bread basket is beyond the wages they earn. Consider the North West as an example. Due to the failure of democracy to break down the social architecture of apartheid, many villages/informal settlements are based up to 55km from the nearest town. Money spent on transport and travelling to work can cost between R20 and R100 a day, particularly in areas with no access to public transport where the residents are forced to rely on “special deliveries”. What this results in little or no money to spend on basic needs. For mothers this is further worsened by a lack of social support adding childcare to the list of expenses that must be paid with an inadequate wage. This in turn means that despite having a job many individuals continue to live below the poverty line.
What this suggests is that contrary to the DA’s well-articulated beliefs, jobs alone will not “miraculously” solve inequality and poverty. There are many other social factors inhibiting this, something the liberal take of the DA conveniently chooses to ignore. So when we talk about jobs as a means of eradicating the inequality gap and poverty we should also talk about the many other social factors contributing to this.
It should also be made clear that access to basic needs should not be determined by one’s employment status. The moment this is done it amounts to equating the right to life (food, water and health are rights that are interlinked to the right to life) on whether or not one is working. As such there should also be a focus on ensuring that families are able to sustain themselves — irrespective of the household head’s employment status because jobs alone is not a solution to South Africa’s greatest challenges.
No doubt the DA’s plan makes all the right kind of noises and uses the right words but practically it is misguided and could further entrench inequality and poverty. When talking about jobs, in South Africa, it cannot be done without speaking about “living wages” and “decent work”.