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The Lottery is costing us jobs

Tuesday, February 7th 2012

GreaterGood’s CEO, Bridgit Evans, wonders why the Lottery mess has been allowed to go on so long, given the numbers employed by civil society organisations and South Africa’s huge job creation challenges.

Recently, I attended a fascinating economics lecture delivered by UCT’s Development Policy Research Unit entitled, South African Labour Market Challenges.  I discovered something I thought was important to share. The sectors employing the most people in South Africa are Wholesale and Retail at 22.7% and something called CSP Services at 20.6%. CSP stands for community and social provision services and includes NGOs and the government.  This is pretty impressive, especially when you compare it to other industries like finance (12.9%), construction (8.3%), manufacturing (13.2%), mining (2.3%) and agriculture (4.9%).  While it is very difficult to access the exact number of non-profit organisations in South Africa (the number is somewhere between 57,000 and 120,000), if one does a quick calculation to get a rough estimate, this sector accounts for around 1 million jobs. 

Double mandate
Since the current unemployment rate stands at roughly 39% and the government is seriously prioritising job creation, then surely it makes sense to ensure that NGOs do not need to retrench staff?  Civil society organisations fulfil a double mandate in that they provide jobs to many previously unemployed people and they provide basic social services. 

Given the above, it seems completely counter intuitive that the Lottery mess has been allowed to go on this long since it is in the government’s best interest to ensure that this funding reaches NGOs.  There is certainly mounting pressure for something to be done, but why is it taking so long?  It is such a simple problem to rectify.  All it will take are good systems in place and the fair and consistent allocation of resources. 

A lottery
The first time I heard of a large NGO struggling to receive funds was in 2005. The organisation was Johannesburg Child Welfare.  I remember thinking, how is it possible that an organisation who is essentially a service provider to the state, cannot count on consistent funding from one year to the next?  We know how many organisations struggle with this issue and we also know how hard it is to plan the services you will provide when funding from the National Lottery is, in fact, a lottery. 

We wish we had some answers but we don’t.  However, GreaterGood is, and will continue to, add its support to the growing number of NGOs taking action on bringing the Lottery to account. We wish to thank all those who are playing such a key role in this process.

Critical issue
Civil society is meant to challenge the critical issues that affect South Africa’s healthy development and this is definitely one of those issues.  It is scandalous that the job losses and therefore the provision of basic services in the non profit sector continue to rise while the Lottery sits and squabbles over who is at fault.