South Africa May Restart Covid Unemployment Relief, Unions Say

The Unemployment Insurance Fund of South Africa may restart payments to assist individuals unable to work due to the coronavirus outbreak, the largest labor group in the country said.

According to Matthew Parks, parliamentary coordinator for the Congress of South African Trade Unions, progress was made in talks held this week at the National Economic Development and Labour Council. Nedlac is a forum for negotiations between business, labor and government.

“Government realizes it has to extend some form of relief,” Parks said on Thursday. “We might need to consider a reduced monetary amount.”

According to Bloomberg, while the government of South Africa and the UIF are under pressure from the impact of a pandemic-related lockdown, the re-imposition of curbs on industries this month, including alcoholic beverages, restaurants and bars, is depriving people of an income. In October, an earlier program to compensate those who temporarily lost jobs because of the virus ended.

In November, labor minister Thulas Nxesi warned that the fund could collapse if forced to reinitiate benefits for people who have lost revenue due to the restrictions.

Talks focus on those who can’t work because of the latest curbs, people forced to quarantine, and those who need to stay home because they’re elderly or have co-morbidities, Parks said. Talks may be finished by next week’s end, he said.

South Africa is the country worst hit by the virus in Africa, with almost 1.3 million confirmed infections and more than 35,000 deaths. The central bank has estimated the economy contracted by about 8% in 2020.

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