Unemployment in South Africa rises to 34.9%

Effect of coronavirus, slow growth responsible for job losses

Hassan Isilow   | 30.11.2021
Unemployment in South Africa rises to 34.9%


Unemployment increased in South Africa in the third quarter to 34.9%, an increase of 0.5%, the highest since Quarterly Labor Force Surveys (QLFS) began in 2008, Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke said Tuesday.

“The number of employed persons decreased by 660,000 in the third quarter of 2021 to 14.3 million. And the number of unemployed persons decreased by 183,000 to 7.6 million compared to the second quarter of 2021,” Maluleke said at the release of the numbers.

Maluleke said the number of discouraged job-seekers increased 545,000 (16.4%) and those who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement increased 443,000 (3.3%), resulting in a net increase of 988,000 in the not economically active population.

South Africa’s economy has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic which saw companies close doors during the hard lockdown in 2020 and it is now recovering after many of the tough restrictions were relaxed.

There was also a week of unrest in July in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces when mobs looted businesses as they protested the detention of former President Jacob Zuma. That saw businesses closed, leading to massive job losses.

Maluleke noted that all industries experienced job losses between the second and third quarters except the finance industry which gained 138,000 jobs.

The largest employment decrease was observed in trade (309,000), followed by community and social services (210,000).

Employment decreased by 571,000 (5.6%) in the formal sector, 65,000 (5.4%) in private households, and 32,000 (3.8%) in agriculture in the third quarter. Informal sector employment increased by 9 000 (0.3%), according to the survey.

The survey also found that the South African labor market is more favorable to men than women with the proportion of males in employment higher than that of females.

The unemployment rate among women was 37.3% in the third quarter compared to 32.9% among men, according to the official definition of unemployment.

The official unemployment rate among black women was 41.5% compared to 9.9% for white women, 25.2% among Indian/Asian women, and 29.1% for mixed races or colored women.

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