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Unemployment: No light at the end of the tunnel

Latest figures show SA is heading towards a disaster.
There isn’t much work for those aged 24 and younger – the unemployment rate in this age group exceeds 63%. Image: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters

Blame whoever and whatever you want – be it government’s socialist-leaning policies, racism, BEE, colonialism, China, electricity shortages, crime, failing state-owned entities, greedy politicians, African immigrants, corruption, neo-liberal capitalism, the education system, white monopoly capital, the banking industry, snowflake millennials, the mining charter, Donald Trump or society – the latest unemployment figures from Statistics SA point towards a disaster.

The statisticians conclude that the unemployment rate in SA is still climbing and that according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) has reached the highest level since the introduction of the survey in 2008.

It’s bad. Really bad

The official unemployment rate increased to 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021, while the unemployment rate based on the expanded definition of unemployment increased to 42.3%.

Thus, nearly half of all citizens of working age in SA are unemployed.

The figures show that the problem is getting bigger as SA’s largely young population reaches working age, with few new job opportunities.

According to the QLFS, SA’s population of people aged between 15 and 65 has increased by around 600 000 people in the past year, to 39.46 million. More than 17.2 million are classified as not economically active, with most still at school or attending an institution of tertiary education.

That’s nearly two million more scholars and students than a year ago who will enter the labour market soon.

Meanwhile, the number of job opportunities in the formal, informal and agricultural sectors, as well as within households, decreased by more than one million compared to a year ago.

Just less than 16 million people were classified as employed, compared to 16.4 million a year ago, according to the report.

Ups, but mostly downs

The largest employment decreases were observed in private households (a loss of 70 000 jobs), followed by the informal sector (19 000), and the agricultural sector (18 000) in the first quarter of the year compared to the preceding quarter.

Employment increases were only observed in the formal sector (79 000 quarter-on-quarter), but the formal non-agricultural sector lost 700 000 jobs compared to a year ago.

The construction, trade and transport industries continue to lose jobs, with the data also showing alarming trends in differences between age groups and according to gender and race.

The Stats SA figures show that there are 10 million people between the ages of 15 to 24, of whom two million are part of the labour force, either being employed or seeking work. There is not a lot of work for these (mostly first-time) work seekers. The unemployment rate in the age group exceeds 63%.

Listen to economist Mike Schüssler discuss the record unemployment rate: 

Pays to be older and more experienced

A bit of experience and a qualification make a difference.

The unemployment rate for people aged between 25 and 34 is lower at 41.3%, but still extremely high. People at the end of their working lives, 55 to 64 years of age, are the most likely to have jobs, with an unemployment rate of only 20%.

The age groups up to 34 years show a decline in the actual number of workers, while the age group 35 to 44 years show an increase in the actual number of working people.

If anything, the age groupings are damning evidence that the education system has been producing candidates who are not equipped for the workplace.

Skills help. The unemployment rate among people who did not finish matric increased from below 30% in 2013 to more than 38% in the first quarter of 2021.

Stark numbers

Some 34% of matriculants are unemployed, while the unemployment rate for graduates is a much lower 9.6%. But that is also much higher than in 2013 when the unemployment rate among graduates was less than 5.5%.

The figures also have racial and gender undertones, with black women the most likely to be unemployed (38.5%), followed by black men (34.9%), according to a presentation of the survey results. White females are most likely to be employed. The Stats SA figures show unemployment among white females at only 8.1%.

The expanded unemployment figures, which include discouraged work seekers, show an even bigger difference between race groups. Here, 51% of black women who would like to work are unemployed.

In short, SA faces a huge problem of growing unemployment among millions of young (mostly black) people, which is bound to become a political and social problem.

Only 15 million employed people cannot produce enough and pay enough tax to ensure a decent quality of life for a population of 59 million, and growing.




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Absolutely heart wrenching stuff! God bless us!

You know what was the most heart-wrenching thing? Watching privileged South Africans support an unnecessary and extremely harmful government ‘lockdown’ for 9 months. One that will have an avalanche of economic and social consequences for a generation. One that affected the very poorest and most vulnerable people in society while protecting the people who could work from home on their laptops and order Ubereats while thinking they’re heroes and telling everyone else to “stay home, stay safe” while they were unemployed and unable to support their families.

Government Lockdowns have been a crime against this country. I will not forgive the petty tyrants in the ANC or the moral authoritarians in the public who supported them.

Awesome comment… but the ANC and other medical celebrities behave like moral benevolence; reality is they are stupid to their actions

This is Africa–It is NOT going to get any better !!

“The figures also have racial and gender undertones…”, I always challenge anyone who says this to have accurate and correct information, to be accurately interpreted. Of course most of the unemployed will be black , the country has a population of over 80% to 90% black , with white and Indian making up a minority , all factors must be taken into account when saying that, who will be most unemployed of course it will black people because they are making up most of the population ,numbers will never lie…

“Blame whoever and whatever you want”….a new reason has just been hatched and that is COVID19.
How convenient.
Otherwise just revert back to the ever present “it is the fault of apartheid”.

To be fair, a large part of the economic misery was caused by Covid-19.. Well more accurately, by the government response to Covid19. Crashing the economy to try stop a virus that clearly spreads seasonally regardless of mandates. Disastrous consequences

With the ANC, there will never be light at the end of the tunnel.

The only light will be the headlight of the express train heading your way.

Not even that. With the ANC’s cadre deployment the vast majority of freight trains and passenger trains are not running, further hurting our economy.

Vietnam’s yearly minimum wage is $1,002.00 in International Currency.Their unemployment is 2.5% ..There is only one union ..the Government. They have a works ethic that leaves SA in shame. Big companies invested in facotories ( Samsung , Honda ) . And we are talking about about a 4th Industrial Revolution ? Come on ..ANC needs to wake up !!

After almost 3 decades they will continue flogging the dead socialist horse. Hahahahaaaaa. and then more than half the country keeps voting for these idiots??

You encourage FDI by attaching a BEE and large tax parasite to whoever wants to invest in this country??

All FDI done under these circumstances are corrupt anc dealings. No real proper company comes to invest in SA under these conditions.

Its all just corrupt anc smoke and mirrors.

Stop playing, the fault rests squarely at the ANC’s feet.

If you vote ANC it means you hate your own people.

But we knew this was coming and it’s going to get worse, and crime will rise. I would also steal if my kids were starving. Remove or kill farmers just makes it worse.

CR will be shocked.

The list of why is endless, the clowns have it soooo wrong as usual, but apartheid and covid will get the blame.

The old story which is the cruelest because those that cannot feed themselves suffer the most. Breed what you can feed.

The Zuptas, R49 billion and rising, other waste in the trillions. There should not be an empty stomach in SA, thanks Jacob!!

In these turbulent times of a health pandemic and recession-like economics, retrenchment is rife, hence the soaring figures of unemployment. Most organisations simply resort to “amputation without diagnosis”. As a matter of the survival of the organisation, a “knee-jerk” 10% retrenchment of staff across all operations gets signed off. Surely this is not the only Operational Strategy approach given the alarming numbers of unemployment. A thought through Operational Strategy approach doesn’t always lead to retrenchments. Granted, the cost of paying salaries is always the highest but there are other Operational Strategy options of surviving these turbulent times without retrenching.

Government should never have arbitrarily locked down businesses and enacted this economic misery on people to combat a virus. The lockdown chickens are coming home to roost. Where are all the morally-superior but naive lockdown supporters now? The ones that promised us that “we can resurrect the economy, we can’t resurrect someone who dies from covid”.

Never fear the ANC has the cure. They will persist with EWC, NHI, bailing out useless and irrelevant SOE’s, introduce additional social grants, etc. until the economy is totally destroyed, then people will starve to death and thus reduce the unemployment rate.

Stop making babies! We can’t afford it!

Agree as a tax payer I cannot afford to feed some else’s kid.

Ultimately this will result in the countries failure whether it is social unrest or insolvency. It is simply unsustainable to have such colossal unemployment-and this is after the huge employment by government and its failing SOEs.

In short-in time we have to go bust due to this and with hopelessly unsuitable Mr Cold Chickens in charge the outlook for any improvement is very poor

Read Mike Schussler’s brilliant article “Inequality and Poverty will not be fixed by spending”. It explains why we are in this disaster. Should be compulsory reading for all in government.

No 1 – you must actually want to work
No 2 – really; you must actually want to work
No 3 – work doesn’t mean you arrive at the office doing as little as possible.

Work ethic & efficiency does not exist in Africa.

The problem will not go away until the mind set changes.

The single biggest lesson to learn about Democracy is this:

You the Government you vote for… The Poor and uneducated have not learned this existential lesson yet. They continue to vote for the same corrupt, broken, inept leadership, thereby perpetuating their own hardships.

“These are the consequences of enacting the fiscal and monetary policy of idiots elected by fools”

Please also podcast Mike Schussler’s commentary on RSG geldsake (1June). Then you will know exactly who is to blame!

Those who vote for a living outnumber those who work for a living

– Sensei

I don’t know what we can do about that. And the serial voters make lots of babies too…

That is the strategy of the ANC(communists)…..keeping their supports as uneducated as possible especially when it comes to voting behavior!

Concur but one needs to not be busy making a living abd forget to create a life. The unemployment problems has a structural problem and value creating problem. There are people that have skills that are not employed. Secondly most international investors are not subjected to local domestic laws. Anti trust law, competition law etc. If we want to break the barrier of unemployment we need everyone on board. You can create policy friendly environments which benefit the corporations and still create a gap in the value chain. The lockdown was wrongfully applied but guess what did you see any big corporations buckle under these pandemic times, not a single one, the private interest from private corporations will only assist when there’s a benefit for them. The privileged classes worked from home while dozens of smaller businesses shut due to Covid. In all fairness it’s both the market and the government to blame. Corporations protect their profits governments protect their taxes. The unemployment problems cannot just be squarely resolved by the government alone. Big corporations only turn up when it benefits their bottom line. One reads all the published data of corporations all complicit in collapses of governments around the world. SA unemployment is a case in point whether one is an economist or whether holding and MBA or PhD, the solutions are practical not theory based on some economic model. This is a hybrid economy not an inclusive one in it’s entirety. Even when the economy does collapse all those funders bankers corporations will exit and capital flight and what does that leave the citizens with? zero value because guess what your entire approach was sucked up in the process of just making a living.

And so the optimists think everything is just rosy in SA, but as an informed realist, I know better. Deteriorating economy, Political circus, Lack of necessary reforms, Crumbling Eskom, Failing BBBEE, Exploding government debt and list goes on and on. Sorry, I do not see light at the end of the tunnel. Why would anyone invest in this country?

But didn’t you read the recent Moneyweb article that “It’s becoming easier to back the world-beating rand”? Who are you going to believe? The economic experts who’s forecasts are consistently wrong, or your own lying eyes??

I tell my children that the traffic accident starts the moment you take the first sip of alcohol while you know you will be driving. The unemployment disaster started the moment collectivist voters received the right to determine economic policy.

But this is the Good story to tell… according to the ANC.

I know someone working at Firstrand/FNB…. tells me they not really interested in employing locals….cos locals are lazy….

BEE policy forces them to hire locals… African are given preference and if you any of the other races a case for motivation must be made. Do me a favour ask their HR?

So they hiring Indians from INDIA to do the local jobs.
THere is your unemployment!

Laziness is a major problem plus a huge de-motivation from the trade unions. That’s besides all the other govt bureaucracy.
Can only run a business in SA by breaking all govt laws.

Exactly, and the way around it is to outsource all the non strategic work…. to those that want to work.

I favour a high and fire policy like the US….. this is a free flow of labour….. if you cannot perform, let someone else take over and do the job…. achieving efficiency in the labour market.
This way individuals can find jobs where they best suited.

Instead we have all this govt bureaucracy that is killing the process of hiring great labour…. and keeping people trapped in their jobs.

I say open up the Labour market.

and a Cuban or two. The ANC elites are laughing at the unemployed vote cattle.

“The figures also have racial and gender undertones, with black women the most likely to be unemployed (38.5%), followed by black men (34.9%).” Take this race-baiting collectivist garbage elsewhere Mr Kruger.

Your point about racial undertones shows the exact opposite… as the majority ethnic group, surely they would also have the highest unemployment

‘Unemployable’ is the real problem. Its hard to find good people and often impossible to get rid of the rubbish without cost. Massive incentive to avoid employing people

things are not so bad here (yet) that the 5m to 7m foreigners are seeking greener pastures..

I call BS on the stats. No economic model explains sustained 40% unemployment rates (excepting war and disasters) We do not have a social safety net. There must be a vast informal economy.

I’ll sketch one:
Youngster has a transport company. For past few years he goes to a mill and buys massive bags of what is a byproduct albeit a very nutritious but unloved by locals product.
He delivers twice a week to a network of shops with mainly East African owners. Only cash, no EFT, no smartphone gizmo, nothing. Owners pay out cash from a box of notes. Few hundred K per month. My guy’s problem is cash risk and getting the mill to accept cash.
These operators run the same way on everything else in their shops. The workers all seem related to the owner. They buy this product in bulk because the area has enough East Africans wishing for home.

Who thinks any of the shops, the products or customers are recorded in any stats???

What are we going to do! What are we going to do? Can no-one see the connection between Expropriation without compensation and the dearth of investment?

End of comments.





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