The employment tax incentive was introduced on 1 January 2014 to share the cost of hiring young, inexperienced workers between employers and government. The incentive was reviewed and extended in 2016 and 2018. The most recent review found that the incentive’s positive benefits are more pronounced in small firms.

In 2015/16 about 31 000 employers claimed the incentive for 1.1 million individuals. The tax expenditure associated with the incentive amounted to R4.3 billion in 2017/18. The National Economic Development and Labour Council conducted a review of the incentive, drawing on independent research on the effects of the programme in 2014/15 and 2015/16. The review found that:

  • The number of employees and employment growth rates increased significantly in firms claiming the incentive.
  • Effects were most pronounced in firms with less than 50 employees, though positive effects held for all firm sizes.
  • There is no significant evidence that the incentive displaces older workers.
  • The incentive improves employment growth in firms that were growing before claiming, and firms with shrinking employment, demonstrating that it also plays a role in halting job losses.
  • Employers tend to retain workers after the two-year eligible period passes because the employees have gained experience and on-the-job training. Young workers indicated that the incentive created opportunities they would not otherwise have.

In 2018, government extended the employment tax incentive by 10 years. In addition, the eligible income bands will be adjusted upwards to partially cater for inflation. From 1 March 2019, employers will be able to claim the maximum value of R1 000 per month for employees earning up to R4 500 monthly, up from R4 000 previously. The incentive value will taper to zero at the maximum monthly income of R6 500An additional incentive for special economic zones has also come into force. This enables employers to claim for all eligible workers hired in these zones, taking into account wage criteria but not age.

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