Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says decisive action is needed to steer the country from despair to hope, from a narrative of lack to a story of opportunity, from a chronicle of deprivation to a testament of prosperity.

"We need greater collaboration among our social partners, capable leadership and a common vision. We need a commitment from all social partners and a shared interest in growing an inclusive economy, creating decent jobs and improving the living conditions of our people," he said on Friday.

The Deputy President was addressing the 6th National Congress of the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA), themed "Decent Work for Decent Life for All," currently underway at the Birchwood Conference Centre in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni.

He said there is a need to resolve that the needs of people are so great, the extent of their deprivation so severe and their desire for meaningful progress so relentless, that there is a need to work with urgency to forge a social compact for profound economic change.

According to Ramaphosa, currently, 5.7 million citizens want to work, but are unable to.

He said a further 2.4 million of citizens were discouraged from seeking employment.

Almost 45% of unemployed South Africans have been looking for work for more than three years, he said, adding that some households are struggling to make ends meet.

"Families are struggling to adequately nourish, clothe and educate their children. Many businesses are experiencing difficulties. Confidence is low.

"Worries about a potential ratings downgrade are weighing heavily on the minds of citizens and investors alike.

"As a country, we need to have a commitment from all social partners and a shared interest in growing an inclusive economy, creating decent jobs and improving the living conditions of our people," he said.

The social partners have undertaken joint roadshows to meet investors to answer their concerns and to present the country's shared approach to the economic challenges that confront South Africa.

"As part of these efforts, business has led the establishment of an investment fund to provide small businesses with access to finance," he said.

With regard to youth unemployment, Ramaphosa said consultation is continuing on a youth employment initiative which will see companies coming forward to place young people in one-year paid internships, giving them crucial exposure to the world of work and significantly improving their chances of finding permanent employment.

"But the ambitious target of one million internships within three years will only be achieved if government, business and labour each play their part," he said.

A delegate at the congress, Sizwe Ntsanwisi, told SAnews that the congress was called to, among other things, come up with ways of addressing unemployment, minimum wages and also discuss current economic issues.

"We really want to come-up with strategies to deal with the high levels of unemployment," he said.

Ntsanwisi said he hopes government will play a greater role in addressing the high levels of unemployment.

FEDUSA is the second largest national trade union centre in South Africa. It was founded on 1 April 1997 and has a membership of 556 000.

The union represents workers in aviation, health, catering, automobile industry, hospitality, municipalities, education, medical services and banking and is affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation.

The Congress is attended by among others the leadership of COSATU, NACTU, Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) and representatives of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Africa.