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Unemployment Stats Downplay SA’s Jobs Crisis

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
Journalist. Reach me at

The Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) and the Assembly of the Unemployed (AoU) note the results of the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) with concern. The results of the survey show that unemployment in South Africa has reached some of the highest levels in the country’s history.

It is the youth unemployment who make up the majority of the unemployed. The AIDC and the AoU believe that austerity policies by the government will only make the situation worse.

The latest QLFS results show that the official unemployment rate increased to 32,6% – the highest rate on record. But while the official unemployment’s increase of 0.1% highlights the country’s growing job’s crisis, it is the expanded definition that shows us how bad the crisis is. In the first quarter of 2021, the country saw a rise in the expanded definition of unemployment by 0,6% to 43,2%.

This is partly due to the number of discouraged work-seekers having increased by 6,9% quarter on quarter. In simple terms, this means that an additional 201,000 work seekers have given up their hope of finding a job in the last three months alone. This takes the total number of potential workers who have been so discouraged that they are no longer even looking for work to over 3,1-million.

However, even these figures – the 0.1% increase to the narrow definition of unemployment and 0.6% increase to the expanded definition – are misleading. This is the case when one considers these numbers in relation to the fact that more than 1.3-million jobs were lost since the same time last year.

What the Stats Say

In terms of the unemployed, StatsSA now records that there are more than 11.4-million people who are unemployed. This number of unemployed may be even bigger, considering that a large number of the so-called 17-million not economically active is made up of home-makers and/or previously discouraged workers, many of whom would readily accept decent work if on offer.

The AIDC and the AoU suggest that the unemployment crisis that the country faces is structural. It is not a consequence of the negative impacts of the pandemic, nor is it fundamentally due to a shortage of skills, the latter is exemplified by the fact that there are growing levels of unemployed graduates.

Edited by Luis Monzon
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