South Africa could revive Covid-19 unemployment relief, unions say

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South Africa’s Unemployment Insurance Fund could restart payments to help people unable to work due to the coronavirus outbreak, the country’s largest group of workers said.

Progress has been made in discussions held this week at the National Council for Economic Development and Labor, according to Matthew Parks, parliamentary coordinator of the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Nedlac is a forum for negotiations between companies, workers and the government.

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“The government realizes that it has to provide some form of relief,” Parks said by phone Thursday. “We may need to consider a reduced monetary amount.”

As the South African government and the UIF come under pressure from the impact of a lockdown associated with the pandemic, this month’s re-imposition of brakes on industries such as alcoholic beverages, restaurants and bars, deprives people of income.

An earlier program to compensate those who temporarily lost their jobs because of the virus ended in October.

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Labor minister Thulas Nxesi warned in November that the fund could collapse if forced to restart benefits for people who have lost income due to the restrictions.

Discussions focus on those who cannot work because of the latest restrictions, those who are forced to quarantine, and those who have to stay home because they have co-morbidities or are elderly, Parks said. The talks could be completed by the end of next week, he said.

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Calls to the UIF spokesperson did not connect.

With nearly 1.3 million confirmed infections and more than 35,000 deaths, South Africa is the country most affected by the virus in Africa. The central bank estimated that the economy contracted by around 8% in 2020.


Read: South Africa’s UIF could collapse if Covid-19 payments are extended

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