South Africa’s jobs market is slowly recovering – but there’s a hidden problem

South Africa’s March 2021 employment levels were similar to February 2020 after a partial employment recovery in adjusted lockdown level 1 – but the official statistics don’t tell the full story, data from the latest National Income Dynamics Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) survey shows.

The NIDS-CRAM is a study conducted by a national consortium of 30 social science researchers from local universities, and groups including the Human Sciences Research Council and Department of Education.

The data shows that the employment to population ratio (EPOP) for 18-64-year-olds, excluding those workers who were furloughed, shows a return to levels close to the pre-pandemic February 2020 baseline.

This recovery mimics October 2020’s partial recovery and shows the immediate impact of lockdown levels on employment.

While this is positive news, there is still significant churn in the labour market, the researchers said – new jobs might have been created over the period, but they are not necessarily employing the same people who lost their jobs during lockdown.

Approximately 23% of people employed in February 2020 were no longer employed a year later, while 30% of those without employment in February 2020 found employment by March 2021.

The recovery has also been uneven by gender – women’s employment in March 2021 remains 8% lower than pre-pandemic levels, while employment among men appears to have fully recovered.

Among the employed, hours worked per week for women was down 6% on average in March 2021 (or 2 hours per week) compared to February 2020, while for men this had returned to pre-Covid levels.

Youth (18-24) experienced the largest employment increase between February 2020 and March 2021 (33% to 35%).

Older adults (55-64) experienced the largest decrease in the Employment to Population ratio (EPOP) from 45% to 41%.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, there were decreases in the share of discouraged work-seekers across age groups and simultaneous increases in labour force participation for all groups except for older adults.


Read: Here are the work from home rules under South Africa’s level 4 lockdown

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South Africa’s jobs market is slowly recovering – but there’s a hidden problem