8.2 Million South Africans Now Unemployed


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The release of the latest unemployment statistics painted a bleak picture in the run up to the 2024 elections. Stakeholders are calling for leaders to put youth at the forefront of job creation efforts. 


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Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) release of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) on Tuesday showed a slight increase in the country's unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2024. The official unemployment rate now sits at 32.9%, an increase of 0.8 percentage points compared to the previous quarter.

While 8.2 million unemployed in the country might suggest a worsening job market, the report reveals a more nuanced picture. The number of employed people in South Africa grew by 22,000 in the first quarter of 2024. However, this gain was overshadowed by a much larger increase in the number of unemployed individuals (up 330,000).

Stats SA explained that the demand for jobs is outpacing the jobs being created:

More people are entering the job market, but the economy isn't creating jobs fast enough to absorb them all.

The report also highlights a shift in employment sectors. Formal sector jobs increased by 56,000, while informal employment saw a decline of 100,000 in the same period. 

Trade, manufacturing, and agriculture were among the industries experiencing growth, while construction, social services, and finance sectors witnessed job losses.

The news is particularly concerning for young South Africans. The youth unemployment rate (15-34 years old) jumped to 45.5%, a 1.3 percentage point increase from the previous quarter. The percentage of unemployed graduates increased to 11,8%.

The total number of unemployed youth rose by a significant 236 000, despite a slight decrease in employed youth.

CEO at Afrika Tikkun, Onyi Nwaneri says the sobering unemployment statistics are largely related to the failure to create opportunities for youth. 

I believe that we going wrong uh because we're not focusing as much as we should on youth-related matters if you look at where we have had the most job losses in the NGO sector in the community sector services sector in the education and social sector you would see that the NGO sector is under pressure and any job that has been created in those sectors have been lost.

As South Africa prepares for the general elections at the end of May, stakeholders in positions of power have waxed lyrical about their plans to create jobs should they be elected. 

Nwaneria underscores the importance of placing young people’s interests at the forefront of policymakers. However, they add that young people have the power to elect their leaders. 

Young people have a voice they have the voice that can be exercised the most in deciding who would lead them so whoever we decide is going  to lead need to understand that young people need to be put at the centre of our development we can no longer have a situation where we have one of the highest you unemployment in the world

They add that while the government, along with the private sector, have done a lot to combat youth unemployment, every year new young people enter the job market. 

I think that the South African government and the private sector have done a lot if you look at our YES programme, our National Youth Service, our social employment programmes.

"Those programmes have done a lot to try and help solve this problem but the truth is that every year we have new young people coming out of universities, coming out of our high schools and the number is increasing and therefore this should be our number one priority."

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