State of the Nation

While politicians campaigned, 237,000 lost their jobs in South Africa

By Tessa Knight 16 May 2019
Caption
Cosatu protesters march in Cape Town in 2017 as part of a national strike against corruption and the quality and quantity of jobs in South Africa. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

South Africans continued to lose their jobs every day in the lead up to elections, at the very same time as politicians were on the campaign trail wooing citizens with promises of jobs and economic stability.

Unemployment and joblessness will, once again, be one of the pressing issues facing the incoming sixth democratic Parliament of South Africa. Just a week after elections, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) revealed that 237,000 people lost their jobs in the first quarter of this year — coinciding with politicians being on the election trail.

The ANC has promised to create 275,000 jobs a year, while the DA claims it will ensure each household has at least one earning member. And the EFFs manifesto is themed around “our land and jobs now”.

Officially, there are 6.2-million citizens who are classified as unemployed, according to the report released by Stats SA this week. In a labour force of only 22.5-million that means 27.6% of South Africans are out of work. In comparison, unemployment in the UK is approximately 3.8% despite the economic turmoil of Brexit; 24.5% of Namibians are unemployed, and Zimbabwe has an “official” unemployment rate of about 5%.

The number for the official definition of unemployment is 27.6%, but in reality there are many more South Africans without work. On top of the unemployment rate, Stats SA classifies an additional 15.8-million people as not economically active. Within this group 3-million people are discouraged from seeking work, while the other 12.8-million do not fit the definition of employed or unemployed.

Many of these discouraged work seekers are young people trying to enter the job market. Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Investor Conference on 15 May, Cyril Ramaphosa again highlighted the issue of youth unemployment, and the impact unemployment has on youth apathy.

After years of being prevented from getting into various skills and professions, [youth] now get those. The doors of learning, universities and colleges, have been opened. They go to these institutions, they come out with certificates and degrees and they don’t get jobs,” Ramaphosa said.

In an attempt to rectify this issue, the ANC’s manifesto promises to provide not just jobs, but decent jobs, particularly for women and young people.

And yet young women are most at risk of being unemployed. According to the report, four in every 10 young women in South Africa are not in employment, education or training (NEET).

 

The expanded definition of unemployment includes people who are unemployed and people who are not economically active. This puts the total percentage of people without jobs in South Africa at 38%, a 1.3% increase from this time last year.

Overall, at least 22-million South Africans do not have an income. That is 22-million people who are able to work, but are either too discouraged to try and find work or are currently, albeit unsuccessfully, searching for a job.

With a total population of nearly 57-million, Ramaphosa has a difficult job on his hands. The ANC promises to create 275,000 jobs a year, but with a loss of 237,000 in just three months, things are not looking good. DM

See also: Jobless and Hopeless: drastic times call for drastic measures

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