Uptick in jobs driven by part-time work

There were more than half a million fewer full-time jobs at the end of 2020 than in December 2019. This is according to Statistics South Africa’s (StatsSA) quarterly employment data, which shows that part-time employment also decreased in this period. The data excludes the informal business sector, agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing and domestic services.

Total employment increased by 76 000 quarter-on-quarter, from 9 564 000 in September 2020 to 9 640 000 in December 2020.

But the data suggests that employment recovery was driven by an increase in part-time employment. While part-time jobs increased by 87 000, 11 000 full-time jobs were lost between the two quarters. This was largely a result of employment losses in construction, manufacturing, business services, transport and mining.

Total employment decreased by 594 000 year-on-year between December 2019 and December 2020. Most of those jobs — 565 000 — were full-time.

According to the data, earnings were also hit in 2020. Year-on-year, total gross earnings decreased by R36.1-billion between December 2019 and December 2020. In this period, basic wages decreased by R22.9-billion.

But wages did recover by R18.6-billion between quarters. This is attributed to increases in community services, business services, trade, manufacturing, construction, transport, mining and electricity.

Covid-19 induced unprecedented job losses in South Africa and abroad. According to StatsSA’s most recent quarterly labour-force survey, which looks at jobs across all sectors, the unemployment rate reached 32.5% in the last months of 2020. This is the highest unemployment rate since the survey began in 2008.

Despite earlier indications of South Africa’s economic recovery, there were still almost 1.4-million fewer people employed in the last quarter of 2020 than in the same period in 2019.

According to global data from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), in 2020 8.8% of global working hours were lost compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. This is the equivalent to 255-million full-time jobs. 

The scale of pandemic-related working-hour losses were about four times greater than during the global financial crisis in 2009, the ILO noted.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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