Unemployment lower, but black women, the youth remain the most vulnerable

The latest unemployment statistics from StatsSA show that South Africa’s unemployment rate declined to 26.7% in the fourth quarter last year from 27.7% in the previous quarter.

“This indicates that we are 12.7% percentage points from the National Development Plan (NDP) target for 2020”, said statistician-general Risenga Maluleke speaking at the quarterly labour force results for the fourth quarter of 2017, on Tuesday in Pretoria. The NDP target for 2020 is 14%.

The report reveals that there are 16.2-million people who were employed in the fourth quarter and 5.9-million unemployed. More than two-thirds of unemployed people have been without a job for a year or longer, according to StatsSA.

The report further says that although there are 37.5-million people of working age between 15 and 64 in South Africa; 15.5 million people are not economically active, including students, homemakers, the disabled and those too young or too old. There are 2.4-million who are also discouraged and are not looking for work. 

“The unemployment rate for women is higher than that of men, and women are less likely to participate in the labour market,” said Risenga. Black women are the most vulnerable, sitting at 34.2% followed by coloured women at 23.5%. Whites were the least affected at 6.7%.


The unemployment rate among the youth is higher irrespective of educational level, but those with less than matric were more likely to experience serious challenges when seeking employment. Of the 10.3-million young people aged between 15 and 24 years, 3.1-million were not in employment, education or training, said Risenga.

This is an unemployment rate of 52.2% for youths aged between 15 and 24, and 35.5% for those between 25 and 34.

Northern Cape recorded the highest unemployment statistics in the fourth quarter followed by the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Limpopo. Gauteng, North-West and Mpumalanga showed a decrease in those without jobs.

The highest employment gains in the fourth quarter were recorded in services in manufacturing recording 75 000 gains, agriculture at 42 000 and construction at 26 000.

Finances, trade and mining saw the largest losses on a quarter-on-quarter basis, mainly driven by losses in business activities in the three sectors.

Jobs in the formal sector showed an upward trend, growing from 9.9-million in 2008 to 11.2-million in 2017. Informal sector jobs increased from 2.4-million in the first quarter of 2008, to 2.8-million in 2017. 

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Thulebona Mhlanga
Guest Author

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