South Africa’s unemployment is a ‘ticking time bomb.’ Anger rises with millions jobless

South Africa’s unemployment is a ‘ticking time bomb.’ Anger rises with millions jobless
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Members of the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions take part in an unemployment protest march in Johannesburg on July 6, 2023. (AP)
South Africa’s unemployment is a ‘ticking time bomb.’ Anger rises with millions jobless
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Themba Khumalo collects empty metal and plastic containers to sell and support his family in Daveyton township, South Africa, on Aug. 1, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 15 August 2023
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South Africa’s unemployment is a ‘ticking time bomb.’ Anger rises with millions jobless

South Africa’s unemployment is a ‘ticking time bomb.’ Anger rises with millions jobless
  • South Africa has the highest unemployment rate in the world, according to the World Bank, outstripping Gaza and the West Bank, Djibouti and Kosovo
  • South Africa’s GDP needs to grow by 6 percent a year to start creating enough jobs just for the 700,000 people who enter the workforce every year, says expert

JOHANNESBURG: As Lebohang Mphuthi works amid the chaos of boisterous children during a lunch break at the Omar H.S. Ebrahim elementary school in South Africa — the kids are pushing, shoving and spilling food everywhere — she can’t help but think how this is as far from her dream job as it can get.
Four years after graduating with a degree in analytical chemistry, the only work the 26-year-old has found is as a student assistant at a public school in Pretoria. Her responsibilities include handing out meals to the children and limiting the chaos as best she can.
Mphuthi’s story mirrors those of so many young South African graduates sitting at home jobless or trying to make ends meet doing fairly menial jobs in a country with a 33 percent official unemployment rate. It’s a figure badly at odds with the status of a nation meant to embody the aspirations of Africa and the developing world.
“It is demotivating and frustrating,” Mphuthi said of her battle to make progress. “You ask yourself, if we who studied are struggling to find jobs, then what about these ones who are still at school?”
In a South African context, Mphuthi might be considered lucky with the $215 she earns a month.
Analysts say the official unemployment number doesn’t even count those who have given up on finding work and dropped off the grid and that a more accurate assessment would be that nearly 42 percent of South Africa’s working-age population is unemployed.
South Africa has the highest unemployment rate in the world, according to the World Bank, outstripping Gaza and the West Bank, Djibouti and Kosovo.
When it comes to youth unemployment, the rate is 61 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds, according to official statistics, and a staggering 71 percent if you again count those who are no longer trying.
Isobel Frye, executive director of the Social Policy Initiative in South Africa, which researches poverty and unemployment, said it equates to 24 million adults out of a population of 60 million who are either unemployed or not involved in any economic activity and barely surviving.
A United Nations report on unemployment in South Africa that was delivered to Deputy President Paul Mashatile last month described the situation as a “ticking time bomb.”
“We have to ask ourselves why this was allowed to happen,” Frye said.




Lebohang Mphuthi distributes meals to children during a lunch break at the Omar H.S. Ebrahim Primary School in Lotus Gardens, west of Pretoria, South Africa, on July 25, 2023. (AP Photo)

South Africa’s GDP needs to grow by 6 percent a year to start creating enough jobs just for the 700,000 people who enter the workforce every year, according to Duma Gqubule, a financial analyst who has advised the South African government.
South Africa’s growth hasn’t approached that much-needed figure for more than a decade. Its economy — which grew by 2 percent last year — is expected to grow by less than 1 percent this year and between 1 percent and 2 percent for the next five years.
Gqubule and Frye believe there are policies that would ease unemployment but have expressed exasperation that the problem isn’t a top priority for everyone from the government to private businesses and every South African given the country’s massive problems, including poverty, inequality and an epidemic of violent crime.
“People just don’t want to talk about this crisis,” Gqubule said when he appeared on national television to reflect on the UN report.
The UN report didn’t come as a surprise. Unemployment was high 30 years ago and has been trending up. The COVID-19 pandemic ripped jobs away from more than 2 million South Africans in a devastating blow, according to government statistics. However, there were warning signs long before that.
The pandemic didn’t cause 46-year-old Themba Khumalo’s problems. He lost his job as a machine operator in 2017 and now tries to support his wife and two children by collecting metal and plastic containers anywhere he can find them to sell in bulk for recycling.
“There are too many guys sitting at home without work,” Khumalo said as he crushed some metal cans with his worn-out work boots in the backyard of his home on the outskirts of Johannesburg. He shakes his head at the insufficiency of the monthly $18 he receives in unemployment benefits. His one bright note is that neighbors often leave empty food cans outside his house for him to recycle.
One of the government’s policies to combat unemployment is helping young entrepreneurs start businesses. Pearl Pillay of the Youth Lab think-tank, which focuses on improving opportunities for young people, said new businesses aren’t getting off the ground.
“Yet that is kind of our fix-all solution to unemployment,” Pillay said.
In the Johannesburg township of Soweto, Mothibedi Mohoje’s Internet cafe is almost always busy as it mainly caters to people who need its computers to apply for jobs. Unemployed Thato Sengoatsi, 25, spends a lot of time there.




Unemployed Thato Sengoatsi speaks during an interview in Soweto, South Africa, on Aug. 2, 2023. (AP)

Sengoatsi and school assistant Mphuthi are among South Africa’s “Born Free” generation — born after the apartheid system of racial segregation ended in 1994 and who have only known a free South Africa. Their lives started in the dawn of democracy when Nelson Mandela was president and hope filled the air.
But unemployment has cast its shadow on the future of millions of South Africa’s Black majority in 2023. Sengoatsi didn’t live through apartheid, but he knows bringing it down promised something.
“The generation that came before us protested ... so that we could have a better life. But we are not getting that life, and we cannot hide that fact,” Sengoatsi said.
There’s clear desperation. When the premier of the economic hub province of Gauteng announced last month that he was offering jobs for 6,000 unemployed young people, more than 40,000 waited in the winter cold to apply. More than 30,000 were set for rejection.
And there’s anger.
Warning of how unemployment threatens the country’s stability, the UN referred specifically to a week in 2021 when riots and looting left more than 350 people dead in South Africa, the worst violence since the last days of apartheid.
But it was an extreme version of the protests rooted in poverty and joblessness that South Africa experiences almost weekly, and which see so many Black Born Frees tearing at the fabric of a post-apartheid society that also isn’t giving them a chance.
It’s a “tinderbox,” Frye said of South Africa, waiting for any spark to set it off. Like the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, the starting point for the 2021 riots. Or a minibus taxi driver strike this month in Cape Town that caused a week of deadly violence, with many rioters not working in the same field. At the center of both those violent eruptions and most of the others, there are jobless young South Africans.
The fact that South Africa’s first generation of Born Frees — now in their mid to late 20s — are living in the country with the world’s worst unemployment rate is “the most heartbreaking betrayal of the promises and dreams of our liberation,” Gqubule wrote.
And there is concern over the future of young generations.
Mphuthi, still young herself, worries about what lies ahead for the children she cares for at the elementary school.
“We have a problem right now,” Frye said, “but we’ll have a massive problem in five, 10, 15 years’ time where it’s just unthinkable what that means for the structure of society.”
 


French court gives man suspended sentence for Iran consulate intrusion

French court gives man suspended sentence for Iran consulate intrusion
Updated 29 sec ago
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French court gives man suspended sentence for Iran consulate intrusion

French court gives man suspended sentence for Iran consulate intrusion
PARIS: A French court this week handed an Iran-born man a suspended 10-month sentence for entering the Iranian consulate in Paris with fake grenades in what he said was “revenge” for a crackdown at home that targeted his family.
The 61-year-old, a long-time resident of France who regularly attends Iranian opposition demonstrations, told the court he acted on Friday after learning the previous day that his sister had been arrested.
He said he had not wanted to “threaten anyone” but rather “take revenge” on the Iranian authorities, who he described as “terrorist.”
The court, in a ruling late on Monday, also banned him from carrying a weapon or approaching the consulate again.
Soldiers and police descended en masse on the neighborhood around the consulate on Friday after the mission reported an intruder entering with a grenade or explosive belt.
But police found no explosives on him or inside after arresting him.
A police source, who did not wish to be named, said the suspect had been wearing a vest with large pockets containing three fake grenades.
The judge said witnesses recounted the man “tearing down flags” and saying he “wanted to die.” Police negotiators managed to convince him to exit the building without his jacket.
A psychiatric expert found the man was of sound mind.
During his trial, the accused embarked on long tirades about the political situation in Iran, prompting the judge to remind him to “stick to the facts.”
The man had already been convicted for setting fire to tires in front of the entrance of the Iranian embassy in Paris in 2023, prosecutors said.
Citizens in the Islamic republic have endured increased repression since nationwide protests began in September 2022.
The demonstrations were sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly flouting the mandatory dress rules for women.
Executions — which activists say are a way to instil fear into Iranian society — have also continued apace.
At least 110 people have been executed this year alone, according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights group.

At least five migrants died during attempt to cross English Channel - La Voix du Nord

At least five migrants died during attempt to cross English Channel - La Voix du Nord
Updated 27 min 33 sec ago
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At least five migrants died during attempt to cross English Channel - La Voix du Nord

At least five migrants died during attempt to cross English Channel - La Voix du Nord
  • People smugglers typically overload rickety dinghies, leaving them barely afloat and at risk of being lashed by the waves

PARIS: At least five migrants died in an attempt to cross the English Channel from an area near the town of Wimereux, local newspaper La Voix du Nord said on Tuesday.
The French coast guard confirmed there was a failed attempt to cross the Channel and said police were operating at a beach following the incident on Tuesday morning, adding there were several ‘lifeless bodies’.
Local police did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.
The coast guard spokesperson said its agents were still operating at sea on Tuesday morning after what the official called a ‘busy’ morning, with several crossing attempts.
The Channel between France and Britain is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and currents are strong, making the crossing on small boats dangerous.
People smugglers typically overload rickety dinghies, leaving them barely afloat and at risk of being lashed by the waves as they try to reach British shores.


Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023— UN 

Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023— UN 
Updated 30 min 45 sec ago
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Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023— UN 

Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023— UN 
  • Climate change exacerbated severity of weather disasters last year, sauys World Meteorological Organization
  • 79 disasters, mostly floods and storms, associated with water-related weather hazards were reported in Asia in 2023

Geneva: Asia was the world’s most disaster-hit region from climate and weather hazards in 2023, the United Nations said Tuesday, with floods and storms the chief cause of casualties and economic losses.

Global temperatures hit record highs last year, and the UN’s weather and climate agency said Asia was warming at a particularly rapid pace.

The World Meteorological Organization said the impact of heatwaves in Asia was becoming more severe, with melting glaciers threatening the region’s future water security.

The WMO said Asia was warming faster than the global average, with temperatures last year nearly two degrees Celsius above the 1961 to 1990 average.

“The report’s conclusions are sobering,” WMO chief Celeste Saulo said in a statement.

“Many countries in the region experienced their hottest year on record in 2023, along with a barrage of extreme conditions, from droughts and heatwaves to floods and storms.

“Climate change exacerbated the frequency and severity of such events, profoundly impacting societies, economies, and, most importantly, human lives and the environment that we live in.”

The State of the Climate in Asia 2023 report highlighted the accelerating rate of key climate change indicators such as surface temperature, glacier retreat and sea level rise, saying they would have serious repercussions for societies, economies and ecosystems in the region.

“Asia remained the world’s most disaster-hit region from weather, climate and water-related hazards in 2023,” the WMO said.

The annual mean near-surface temperature over Asia in 2023 was the second highest on record, at 0.91 degrees Celsius above the 1991-2020 average, and 1.87 C above the 1961-1990 average.

Particularly high average temperatures were recorded from western Siberia to central Asia, and from eastern China to Japan, the report said, with Japan having its hottest summer on record.

As for precipitation, it was below normal in the Himalayas and in the Hindu Kush mountain range in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile southwest China suffered from a drought, with below-normal precipitation levels in nearly every month of the year.

The High-Mountain Asia region, centered on the Tibetan Plateau, contains the largest volume of ice outside of the polar regions.

Over the last several decades, most of these glaciers have been retreating, and at an accelerating rate, the WMO said, with 20 out of 22 monitored glaciers in the region showing continued mass loss last year.

The report said 2023 sea-surface temperatures in the northwest Pacific Ocean were the highest on record.

Last year, 79 disasters associated with water-related weather hazards were reported in Asia. Of those, more than 80 percent were floods and storms, with more than 2,000 deaths and nine million people directly affected.

“Floods were the leading cause of death in reported events in 2023 by a substantial margin,” the WMO said, noting the continuing high level of vulnerability of Asia to natural hazard events.

Hong Kong recorded 158.1 millimeters of rainfall in one hour on September 7 — the highest since records began in 1884, as a result of a typhoon.

The WMO said there was an urgent need for national weather services across the region to improve tailored information to officials working on reducing disaster risks.

“It is imperative that our actions and strategies mirror the urgency of these times,” said Saulo.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the evolving climate is not merely an option, but a fundamental necessity.”


UN officials urge UK to reconsider plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda

UN officials urge UK to reconsider plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda
Updated 21 min 38 sec ago
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UN officials urge UK to reconsider plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda

UN officials urge UK to reconsider plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda
  • UN called on the UK to instead take practical measures to address irregular flows of migrants and refugees

GENEVA: Two United Nations top officials on Tuesday called on the UK to reconsider its plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda, warning the move would have a harmful impact on human rights and refugee protection.
In a joint statement, Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on the UK to instead take practical measures to address irregular flows of migrants and refugees.
“The new legislation marks a further step away from the UK’s long tradition of providing refuge to those in need, in breach of the Refugee Convention,” said Grandi.
Turk, who has criticized the plan before, said that the legislation “seriously hinders the rule of law in the UK and sets a perilous precedent globally.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised on Monday to start sending asylum seekers to Rwanda within 10 to 12 weeks as the upper house of parliament passed legislation that had been delayed for weeks by attempts to alter the plan.
Other countries are considering tough measures to stem illegal migration, with Italy planning to build reception camps in Albania for thousands of migrants arriving by sea.


Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023:UN

Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023:UN
Updated 23 April 2024
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Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023:UN

Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023:UN
  • UN’s weather and climate agency said Asia was warming at a particularly rapid pace

GENEVA: Asia was the world’s most disaster-hit region from climate and weather hazards in 2023, the United Nations said Tuesday, with floods and storms the chief cause of casualties and economic losses.
Global temperatures hit record highs last year, and the UN’s weather and climate agency said Asia was warming at a particularly rapid pace.
The World Meteorological Organization said the impact of heatwaves in Asia was becoming more severe, with melting glaciers threatening the region’s future water security.
The WMO said Asia was warming faster than the global average, with temperatures last year nearly two degrees Celsius above the 1961 to 1990 average.
“The report’s conclusions are sobering,” WMO chief Celeste Saulo said in a statement.
“Many countries in the region experienced their hottest year on record in 2023, along with a barrage of extreme conditions, from droughts and heatwaves to floods and storms.
“Climate change exacerbated the frequency and severity of such events, profoundly impacting societies, economies, and, most importantly, human lives and the environment that we live in.”
The State of the Climate in Asia 2023 report highlighted the accelerating rate of key climate change indicators such as surface temperature, glacier retreat and sea level rise, saying they would have serious repercussions for societies, economies and ecosystems in the region.
“Asia remained the world’s most disaster-hit region from weather, climate and water-related hazards in 2023,” the WMO said.
Ranging disasters
The annual mean near-surface temperature over Asia in 2023 was the second highest on record, at 0.91 degrees Celsius above the 1991-2020 average, and 1.87 C above the 1961-1990 average.
Particularly high average temperatures were recorded from western Siberia to central Asia, and from eastern China to Japan, the report said, with Japan having its hottest summer on record.
As for precipitation, it was below normal in the Himalayas and in the Hindu Kush mountain range in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile southwest China suffered from a drought, with below-normal precipitation levels in nearly every month of the year.
The High-Mountain Asia region, centered on the Tibetan Plateau, contains the largest volume of ice outside of the polar regions.
Over the last several decades, most of these glaciers have been retreating, and at an accelerating rate, the WMO said, with 20 out of 22 monitored glaciers in the region showing continued mass loss last year.
The report said 2023 sea-surface temperatures in the northwest Pacific Ocean were the highest on record.
Water-related hazards
Last year, 79 disasters associated with water-related weather hazards were reported in Asia. Of those, more than 80 percent were floods and storms, with more than 2,000 deaths and nine million people directly affected.
“Floods were the leading cause of death in reported events in 2023 by a substantial margin,” the WMO said, noting the continuing high level of vulnerability of Asia to natural hazard events.
Hong Kong recorded 158.1 millimeters of rainfall in one hour on September 7 — the highest since records began in 1884, as a result of a typhoon.
The WMO said there was an urgent need for national weather services across the region to improve tailored information to officials working on reducing disaster risks.
“It is imperative that our actions and strategies mirror the urgency of these times,” said Saulo.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the evolving climate is not merely an option, but a fundamental necessity.”