Pretoria: President Jacob Zuma has decribed Government’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) as a success story which has benefitted more than 3.5 million people since it was introduced in 2004.
During a debate on President Zuma’s sixth State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Wednesday, some members of the opposition criticised the EPWP. They said it was not a solution to unemployment in South Africa.
But in his reply to the debate on Thursday, President Zuma said the formal economy could not absorb all work seekers.
“The fact is this innovation has made a massive impact in the lives of the poor,” he said.
Programmes such as working on waste, wetlands, water, fire and the Environmental Youth Services Programme had created about 750 000 work opportunities and more than 200 000 full time equivalent jobs since 2009.
More than half of these beneficiaries were youth.
In another development, President Zuma said a Presidential Youth Indaba, aimed at dealing with youth development matters, would be launched soon. The event would bring together young people in dialogue, to assess where we are and what steps need to be taken to advance youth development.
The majority of South Africa’s unemployed are said to be between the ages of and 24 and 30.
Meanwhile, President Zuma said social grants remained the most effective poverty alleviation tool in addressing the legacy of apartheid.
More than 16 million people in South Africa are beneficiaries of social grants. For more than 22% of households in the country, social grants are the main source of income.
President Zuma said: “It must also be noted that the majority of beneficiaries of social grants, 11 million specifically, are vulnerable children. The rest of the beneficiaries are older persons receiving the old age pension, persons with disability, military veterans and other vulnerable persons.
“Social grants therefore assist vulnerable members of society.”