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Updated Mar 18, 2020

South Africa’s largest trade union and main business lobby teamed up to urge the government to dip into an US$11 billion unemployment fund to stave off some of the economic losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) met with government officials on Monday, March 16, to suggest the Unemployment Insurance Fund be used to support ailing companies and laborers who have been temporarily laid off as the country institutes school closures, travel bans, and other restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. South Africa’s total confirmed cases are only at 116, but health officials have seen in Europe and the United States how fast this number can climb. Every employed South African and employers pay into the fund, which will have to have regulatory changes made in order to use it for relief. Details will be hashed out at follow-up meetings, according to COSATU and BUSA representatives at the Monday meeting.


Why It Matters

That a labor union and business lobby have found themselves on the same side of the negotiating table demonstrates the severity of the impact of the pandemic on the national and global economy. Countless industries have had to either cease operations or drastically cut down on hours of operation, with businesses facing the very real prospect of bankruptcy and workers struggling to earn enough to buy basic necessities and pay bills. Every resource at the state’s disposal, including an unemployment fund, will be needed to mitigate the losses. The question is whether it will be enough. So far, the African continent has not been hit hard by COVID-19, but few health experts dispute that more cases are coming.

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