State still SA's cushiest employer
If you want to work in South Africa, the government remains the place to be. This is one of the themes that emerged from an annual report examining labour trends in South Africa, released by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) on Wednesday, titled Labour Market Dynamics in South Africa, 2013.
Despite growing concern about a bloated and costly public service, the state was still the sector that created the most jobs between 2008 and 2013, according to StatsSA.
The community and social services sector – the category under which government employment is recorded – created 575 000 jobs during this period, followed by finance (213 000), transport (91 000), mining (57 000) and utilities (25 000).
But the state, in the form of utilities at least, is also where employees are most likely to be paid better when comparing average monthly earnings of employees by sector.
In 2013, the median monthly earnings for employees in the utilities sector was R8 666, followed by the mining and services sectors at R6 000 a month respectively.
These salaries were well above the total median monthly earnings at R3 033.
In line with trends
According to economist Mike Schussler, this was in line with the trends since 2006, revealing that the private sector had not been creating jobs, but had been losing them.
Civil servant salaries in South Africa now stood at 13.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), said Schussler, which was among the highest levels globally.
When the salaries of state-owned entities were included to this calculation, the figure stood at almost 15% of GDP, he said.
This meant tax rates had to remain high to sustain government wages, and that it also crowded out the private sector.
"If we are paying that much for it, we need an excellent state, and we don't have that," Schussler said.
The report highlighted South Africa's ongoing battle with persistent unemployment and inequality in both pay and working experiences across races and gender lines.
The median monthly earnings of white and Indian/Asian employees were substantially higher than the earnings of their coloured and black counterparts, StatsSA said.
"Earnings of the black African population was 20% to 25% of what the white population earned; 30% to 38% of what Indian or Asians earned and 80% to 87% of what the coloured population earned."
Median earnings for both men and women went up between 2010 and 2013, rising from R3 200 to R3 500 for men, and from R2 400 to R2 500 for women.
But at R500 a month in 2013, the earnings for women in the bottom quintile amounted to only 1.9% of the R26 000 earned by men in the top quintile, StatsSA pointed out.
Women still paid less
Women are paid less than men for the jobs they do, according to the labour trends report.
"In 2013, two out of every five women (42.1%) had monthly earnings that were below two-thirds of median monthly earnings, compared with 28.8% of men," StatsSA said.
The report confirmed that South Africa's broader unemployment rate in 2013 – using the expanded definition of unemployment – was 35% versus the official unemployment rate of just less than 25%.
The expanded definition of unemployment allows for the measurement of unemployed individuals who are available to work, as opposed to the official definition, which requires unemployed people to have actively sought work..