Unemployment becoming a national disaster

Minerva Biven


The grim statistics of unemployment in SA are not a key, nor is the similarly grim fact that the figures retain acquiring worse 12 months right after 12 months.

Figures South Africa’s most current Quarterly Labour Drive Survey (QLFS) reiterates this fact with figures demonstrating that there are additional than 7.9 million unemployed folks in SA, despite their very best endeavours to discover work.

Stats SA states the unemployment charge, in accordance to the slender definition of unemployment, increased to 35.3% at the conclude of 2021. Stats SA notes that this is a new document considering that it started accomplishing the survey in 2008 – a sentiment it also expressed at the time of the previous release of the survey for the quarter to September 2021.

A large amount of people have offered up hunting for non-existent positions, growing the amount of unemployed people – who would actually like to operate – to 10.7 million.

The broader unemployment level, which includes discouraged work seekers, has amplified to 46.2% of likely workers.

It gets even worse. Stats SA notes in its report of the survey executed through the previous quarter of 2021 that a whole lot of younger individuals are not only discouraged with the labour market, they have even supplied up on studying the essential abilities to uncover employment.

Browse: Youth unemployment: Two knock-on outcomes to be expecting

“Some young people have been discouraged with the labour market and they are also not developing on their competencies foundation through instruction and education – they are not in employment, training or training.

“There were being about 10.2 million young men and women aged 15 to 24 years in quarter four of 2021, of which 32.8% ended up not in employment, instruction or instruction,” according to the report.

That provides an additional a few million odd to the unemployment numbers.

Even these figures do not convey to the total tale.

One particular requires to dig into the raw numbers and glimpse at the stats likely back a long time to fully understand the seriousness of the dilemma.

This is a thing the Stats SA report fails to do with its focus on quarter-to-quarter figures and share improvements.

Uncooked info

The info provided as added facts to the report displays that the working age populace in SA is developing promptly.

Outlined as persons amongst the age of 15 and 65, the doing the job age inhabitants has improved from 31.5 million in 2008 (initially quarter) to 39.9 million at the conclude of 2021.

In limited, there are 8.5 million more opportunity employees in SA than in 2008.

A graph of the boost in the functioning age inhabitants reveals uninterrupted, regular expansion.

Maximize in operating age population (thousands)

Supply: Based mostly on Stats SA details

Stats SA places the labour drive at just under 22.5 million at the end of 2021, right after accounting for folks who are not readily available for employments, this kind of as scholars, entire-time students and individuals who choose not to work. The latter contains stay-at-property moms and dads with prosperous spouses and people today who opted for early retirement.

In 2008, the full labour force amounted to 18.8 million. So, the figures clearly show an maximize of 8.5 million in the doing work age population, but a reduce enhance in the measurement of the labour drive of 3.7 million.

The bulk of the difference can be attributed to youthful persons keeping in college and attending universities and tertiary training institutions. Really, this corrects the relatively aged definition of a doing work age that starts at 15 or 16 yrs of age.

Raise in labour pressure (hundreds)

Resource: Primarily based on Stats SA data


Work had been expanding since 2008, but not rapid adequate to keep rate with a rising populace and one that is skewed towards more youthful men and women escalating up and reaching operating age. Then Covid-19 hit.

The first QLFS (in 2008) described 14.4 million persons in employment that calendar year, with later on surveys reporting a continual rise to a peak of 16.4 million in the December 2019 quarter. That’s two million new work opportunities, and food stuff for a whole lot of family members.

While the development in work was much too sluggish then – about the very same time period the doing the job age populace enhanced by 6.6 million and the labour power by 4.3 million – it crashed when Covid-19 strike.

Inside months, SA misplaced 2.5 million positions.

The QLFS knowledge exhibits that the range of used folks in SA fell to the identical level as in 2008.

Selection of utilized people (1000’s)

Supply: Centered on Stats SA data

Unemployment level

No boost in the amount of obtainable employment due to the fact 2008, and the continual raise in the doing work age populace and the quantity of folks looking for work, end result in an unbelievable and incredibly worrisome unemployment price.

Unemployment fee (narrow definition)

Resource: Primarily based on Stats SA info

The recent unemployment charge of 35.3% can be interpreted in distinct approaches. A person is to position out that 35 out of each and every 100 individuals eager to operate are not able to discover operate. One more is to say that a person out of every single a few adults in SA is staring at a bare food cupboard and does not know what to do about it.

The expanded definition of unemployment indicates that 50 percent the persons who actually want to get the job done are unable to come across work.

Browse: The South African disaster: No businesses for the unemployed

In the meantime, Stats SA’s new consumer value index report displays a steep boost in costs of essential foodstuffs.

The most up-to-date QLFS includes heaps of studies: by province, age, race, gender, field, lengths of unemployment and degree of schooling. It is most likely all extremely helpful, but the difficulty of unemployment is getting so massive that these data must be mostly irrelevant.

At this stage, a new career is a new task – lending believability to calls to deregulate labour marketplaces and accomplishing away with whatever stands in the way of building positions.


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