The chances of employment in South Africa based on your level of education

South Africa’s unemployment rate reached 32.6% in the first three months of 2021, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said.

This was revealed in Stats SA’s Quarter Labour Force Survey (QLFS) released by statistician-general Risenga Maluleke on Tuesday (1 June).

The data shows that the number of employed persons remained almost unchanged at 15 million. This was a slight decrease of 28,000 in the first of quarter 2021.

“The number of unemployed persons also remained almost unchanged at 7.2 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2020 – increased by 8,000.

“The number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 201,000 (6.9%), and the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement, decreased by 38,000 (0.3%) between the two quarters, resulting in a net increase of 164,000 in the not economically active population,” Stats SA said.

Maluleke said these minor changes resulted in the official unemployment rate increasing by 0.1 of a percentage point from 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021 – the highest since the start of the QLFS in 2008.

The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment, increased by 0.6 of a percentage point to 43.2% in quarter 1, 2021, compared to quarter 4, 2020.

The survey reveals that the official unemployment rate among youth (15-34 years) was 46.3% in quarter 1, 2021.

“The rate was 9.3% among university graduates.

Proportion of the unemployed by education level

Maluleke said the formal sector employment increased by 79,000 while the other sectors experienced declines in employment in quarter 1 of 2021.

He said informal sector employment decreased by 19,000 (0.8%); private households by 70,000 (5.8%), and employment in agriculture decreased by 18,000 (2.2%).

“Employment mainly increased in finance (up by 215,000) and other industries that had job gains include community and social services (16,000), utilities (16,000), mining (12,000) and manufacturing (7,000).

“Job losses were observed in construction (87,000), trade (84,000), private households (70,000), transport (40,000) and agriculture (18,000),” Stats SA said.

The stats body’s data showed that graduate unemployment is 23.3% points lower than the national official unemployment rate.


Of the 7.2 million unemployed persons in the first quarter of 2021, more than half (52.4%) had education levels below matric, followed by those with matric at 37.7%. Only 2.1% of unemployed persons were graduates, while 7.5% had other tertiary qualifications as their highest level of education.

StasSA’s data showed that 91.3% of the employed continued to receive pay during lockdown compared to 88.9% in Q4:2020. 14% of those who received pay during lockdown were paid reduced salaries.


Read: South Africa’s unemployment rate hits new all-time high

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The chances of employment in South Africa based on your level of education