S.Africa: 30 Years of Black Rule: SA’s unemployment rate edges up to 32.9% just before 29 May polls


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South Africa’s jobless rate increased by 0.8 of a percentage point between the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter of 2024.

The data, revealed by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) on Tuesday, 14 May, is the last Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) before the 29 May polls. South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to 32.9% in the first quarter of 2024, according to Stats SA.

This showed an increase by 0.8 of a percentage point from 32.1% in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Jobs have emerged as one of the big hot-button issues of the 2024 elections, trumping 2019 electioneering touchpoints like gender-based violence and land expropriation. This is a blow to the ruling party, which would have been hoping for more positive figures to share with voters so close to the 29 May polls.

The first three months of this year have been marked by a period of substantially less load shedding compared with the same period last year. Two weeks before South Africa’s general elections, the lights are on. The country has now had 49 consecutive days without load shedding, the longest streak in more than a year. See The Outlier here.

However, the power streak seems to have had little effect on South Africa’s jobless rate.

In a presentation accompanying the data, Stats SA said the number of unemployed people had ballooned to 8.2 million in Q1 of 2024, from 7.9 million in Q4 of 2023. This means more than 300,000 became unemployed between the fourth quarter of 2023 and the first quarter of 2024.

The number of people fortunate enough to have a job remains 16.7 million in Q1 of 2024. But that is out of a working-age population (between the ages of 15 and 64) of 41.2 million. The labour force itself stands at 25 million, with 16.2 million regarded as “not economically active”.

South Africa’s fragile economy narrowly avoided a technical recession in the last three months of 2023 – a period plagued by unrelenting Eskom load shedding. It underscored how rolling blackouts undermine the economy and its potential growth.

In the fourth quarter of 2023, the country’s unemployment rate increased to 32.1%. After employment increased for eight consecutive quarters, the last three months of last year saw a net total of 22,000 jobs lost.

On Tuesday, Stats SA revealed the expanded unemployment rate – which includes discouraged job seekers – also increased by 0.8 percentage points to 41.9%, when comparing Q1 of 2024 and Q4 of 2023.

Stats SA revealed the unemployment rate increased in all provinces between Q4 of 2023, and Q1 of 2024. (Photo: Tom Barrett / Unsplash)

Hunger is linked to many societal challenges, chief among them being poverty and unemployment. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

North West recorded the highest expanded unemployment rate in Q1 of 2024 at 53.6%. Read Daily Maverick reporters Rebecca Davis and Victoria O’Regan’s report on the forgotten North West town of Pomfret here.

The Eastern Cape recorded the second-highest expanded unemployment rate in Q1 of 2024 at 49.1%, followed by Limpopo at 47.8%.

Importantly, Stats SA revealed the unemployment rate increased in all provinces between Q4 of 2023, and Q1 of 2024.

While the unemployment rates in the Western Cape (21.4%) and KwaZulu-Natal (29.9%) have consistently been below the official unemployment rate in South Africa for the past 10 years, the Eastern Cape (42.4%) has continuously exceeded it.

A decade ago, 5.1 million people were unemployed in Q1 of 2014. That number is 8.2 million in Q1 of 2024.

In a statement, the ANC-affiliated union federation Cosatu described the latest statistics as a “sobering reminder” that the country could not sustain the current levels of joblessness.

“Whilst we are seeing critical progress on many fronts, from the massive decrease in load shedding, to the reduction in congestion at our ports, the reopening of various freight and commuter rail lines … much more remains to be done to unlock the economy and slash unemployment,” it said.

Youth unemployment

According to Stats SA’s QLFS, youth unemployment remains stubbornly high, with 59.7% of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 being unemployed.

“Youth unemployment is a national crisis, but none of the political parties currently contesting has made youth empowerment the core of their plans. We urgently need a coordinated plan that identifies the systemic challenges that drive the crisis,” said Kristal Duncan-Williams, Project Lead at Youth Capital, a campaign advocating policy change to solve unemployment. DM

Source: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2024-05-14-sa-unemployment-rate-up-to-32-9-in-q1-of-2024-just-before-polls/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=first_thing

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