Unemployment hits some harder

2008-08-28 21:06

Johannesburg - As one in nearly three black South African women who are jobless, Sabatha Nyawo has pounded the streets of South Africa's financial capital Johannesburg for two years in search of work.

"Everyday I send applications to different companies to no avail," said the 32-year-old who graduated as a librarian five years ago but has never worked in her chosen profession.

The mother of two last worked as a supermarket cashier. As a black woman she falls into a group that has an unemployment rate eight times that of white men.

Labour figures released on Thursday from South Africa's central statistics arm showed a fractional dip overall in the unemployment rate by 0.4% to 23.1% in the second quarter of 2008.

But while the number of workers rose slightly, the indicators point to employment rates that remain racially skewed in favour of whites, the minority group who ruled apartheid South Africa until 1994.

While joblessness among white South Africans is just 4.6%, it affects 12.7% of Indians and 19.5% of mixed race or coloureds.

Twenty-seven percent, or more than one in four, of black South Africans aged between 15 and 64 years old are not working - a figure that goes up to nearly one in every three for black women.


Professor Vasu Reddy said this was not surprising and explained that the roots of the problem go back to the country's discriminatory past when policies were actually aimed at suppressing the black majority.

"Even though we're 14 years into democracy, we still have the historical legacy of economic imbalance whilst there is political power," said the expert from the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria.

Black women had the least access to economic and educational resources and the least skills to allow them entry into broad economic participation, Veddy added.

Kimani Ndungu, a senior researcher from the National Labour and Economic Development Institute agreed: "For a long time women have always been an the receiving end of the unemployment scourge."

In addition, the majority of unskilled black women did menial jobs in the low paying informal sector, he added.

Bleak future

Analysts said the marginal decline in joblessness was no cause for celebration as the country is currently battling with a shortage of skills and slowing economic growth.

Additionally the overall increase of 100 000 workers in the second quarter painted a "bleak future" for thousands of job seekers, Ndungu said.

The government was unlikely to meet its target of reducing unemployment rate to 14% by 2014, he added.

Russel Lamberti, an analyst with Econometrix, said: "The dip may be small but it is an indication that we are still facing a big challenge in terms of creating sustainable economic growth."

South Africa's annual rate of inflation, driven by higher costs for power, food and transport rose to 13.4% in July, its highest level since 2002, the statistics agency said Wednesday.

The number of economically inactive persons rose by 67 000 from 12.8m in first quarter of 2008 to 12.9m.

Last month, a report by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said South Africa's high unemployment was the "most disappointing aspect of post-apartheid economic performance, particularly for less-skilled younger blacks".