South Africa’s official unemployment rate edged up to 23.2% in the period July-September from 23.1% in the three months before that, a government labour report shows.
Statistics SA’s latest Labour Force Survey that provides estimates of employment in both the formal and informal sectors finds that the total number of unemployed people is marginally higher at 4.122-million. Total employment fell slightly to 13,655-million people.
“All industries showed a downward trend (in employment) with the exception of trade and private households,” Stats SA says.
Unemployment has eased in Africa’s largest economy over the last decade but remains high despite average economic growth of around 5% over the past four years.
A lack of gainful employment and a consequent high level of poverty for many of the country`s 50 million people has overshadowed economic gains since the start of nonracial democracy in 1994 and are thought to be fuelling the service delivery protest, public violence and crime.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in July rated unemployment as the main challenge facing SA’s economic development.
Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt says SA`s economic growth has slowed from 5% and will likely come in at 3% this year. “At that rate there can be no jobs growth,” he says, adding that both the formal and informal economy was struggling in the current global financial climate and that more job losses were likely.
Econometrix economist Tony Twine added that unemployment figures remain problematic. He says there are several sets to choose from, and “you can pick the one you like.”
As a result, Stats SA and the Reserve Bank peg unemployment in the twenty percent range but the Congress of SA Trade Unions puts it in the forties.
“It really becomes a definition game and who is in and who is out. This is not a uniquely South African problem. I can distinctly remember that during the Thatcher era British figures kept coming down until it emerged they were excluding more and more people from their definition of unemployed.”
Twins says regardless of the figure selected, slower economic growth is “bound to erode job creation and possibly push it into negative territory… especially at the unskilled end of employment spectrum.
It is also at that end of the spectrum where the propensity for violence is the highest and threat to civil security greatest.