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SA's story line: Biting unemployment

Oct 31 2014 06:00
Johannesburg - High and long-term unemployment are critical problems facing the country as the jobless feel the creeping effects of poverty, said statistician general Pali Lehohla.

"The story line in South Africa is that we are in a high unemployment state, over a very long period of time from 2008, and we can go back to 2001," he said at the release of Stats SA's 2014 third quarter labour force survey in Pretoria.

"We have been swimming in that state for quite some time. Those who are in non-permanent employment are really vulnerable... When you don't work you lose skills and you lose capacity to perform, and then you become less employable."

Those who did not work faced a downward cycle and as a result of not working were feeling the creeping effects of poverty.

Long-term unemployment

Lehohla said that long-term unemployment is a problem facing policymakers as they seek to address joblessness.

"We see that 1.4 million people have been out of jobs for more than five years. Now, is it possible to rehabilitate such people?" Lehohla asked while presenting Stats SA's 2014 third quarter labour force survey in Pretoria.

"Policy has to now focus on those who have been out of jobs for more than five years. Is there a small step for rescue or are you condemned?"

A total of 1.1m people had been out of work for one to three years, 1m for three to five years, 739 900 for six months to a year, and 737 000 people for less than six months.

What to focus on?

"What do you prioritise? Do you prioritise those who have just been short-term out of employment or those who are long-term?" Lehohla asked.

Of unemployed black people, 67.3% were in long-term unemployment, 64.8% of unemployed Indians and Asians, 59.9% of unemployed coloureds, and 50.1% of unemployed whites.

The Free State had the highest official unemployment rate, at 34.6%, followed by the Northern Cape (29.7), Eastern Cape (29.5), Mpumalanga (29.3), North West (26.8), Gauteng (24.6), KwaZulu-Natal (24.1), Western Cape (23.6), and Limpopo (15.9).

The labour force

Out of a working population of 35.5 million people, aged between 15 and 64, 20.3m formed the labour force. A total of 15.1m people had jobs in South Africa in the third quarter of 2014, and 5.2m were unemployed.

Of the 15.1m employed, 10.8m were employed in the formal sector and 2.4m in the informal sector. A total of 670 000 people were employed in the agricultural sector while 1.29m were employed in private households.

The labour force participation rate, being the total labour force divided by the working age population, was 57.1%, a 0.2% drop from the second quarter.

The absorption rate, being the total number of employed divided by the working age population, was 42.6%, a 0.1% drop from the second quarter.

Employment facts

Among those employed, 23.2% were employed in the community and social services sector, 21.1% in the trade sector, 13.4% in the finance sector, 11.5% in manufacturing, and 8.5% in construction.

Private households contributed 7.8% of employed people, while transport was 6.2%, agriculture 4.5%, mining 2.9%, and utilities 0.8%.

Of the working age population, 27.8% of woman were officially unemployed, a 0.3% decrease from the second quarter of 2014, while 23.4% of men were officially unemployed.

Unemployed persons were those aged 15 to 64 years of age actively looking for work or who tried starting a business in the weeks preceding Stats SA's survey.

When using the expanded unemployment rate, 39.9% of women and 32.3% of men were unemployed.

pali lehohla  |  poverty  |  unemployment


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