Here’s how long some people have been sitting without a job in South Africa

 ·9 Jun 2021

Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi has published data on South Africa’s high unemployment rate, and how many people are not finding work.

Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A question, Nxesi was asked how many young people (aged 15-24) remain unemployed in South Africa after they reach the age of 35 and beyond.

The minister said the only data available is in Statistics South Africa’s Q4 2020 Quarterly Labour Force Survey, which shows how many South Africans in this age group or sitting without work, and for how long.

According to the data, approximately 1.3 million people aged 15-24 sit without work in South Africa for at least three months, but the vast majority of these people (over 1 million) are stuck without work for a minimum of 12 months.

This is exacerbated by low levels of education, where the largest proportion of unemployed youth are those with a matric, or without any formal qualifications at all (1.23 million), and these South Africans are also the least likely to find any formal employment over a longer period of time.

Graduates and those with some form of tertiary qualifications are smaller in number, but still not immune. Most young graduates ‘only’ stay unemployed for three to nine months – but a sizeable portion remain unemployed for longer than that, with almost a quarter being unemployed for more than three years.

The biggest portion of young South Africans with other tertiary qualifications (56%) sit without work for at least a year.

This aligns with data published by Stats SA this week which shows that 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 also 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.

Educated South Africans also impacted

Research by CareerJunction and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows that the pandemic has had a direct impact on how employment and qualifications are perceived in South Africa.

Highly educated South Africans and the older generation are the most negatively impacted groups in terms of Covid-19 and its effect on their employment status – which is the exact opposite of the global trend, the BCG said.

“The pandemic and the increasing speed of technological disruption have prompted people to question their chosen career paths,” said Rainer Strack, one of the authors of the study and a senior partner at BCG.

“Almost seven in ten people say they are open to retraining that would allow them to switch to completely different job roles. This level of flexibility could help employers and governments that are worried about preparing their workforces for the future.”

Digital and IT top the list of potential next careers – likely because of the perception of expanding opportunities in these areas and the generally high remuneration.

More than 20% of people currently working in artistic or creative jobs say they would retrain for a digital job, as do more than 20% of people currently working in consulting or media.

Office and management jobs (such as marketing and human resources) are also seen as attractive next career steps, possibly because of the perceived ease of transitioning into those jobs for a variety of workers.

Read: The biggest risks to South Africa right now: economists

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