Even with a degree, South Africans can’t find a job

 ·17 May 2023

Unemployment among graduates in South Africa is far worse now than it was a decade ago.

Stats SA‘s recent publication of unemployment statistics for Q1 2023 reported that the country’s official unemployment rate grew to 32.9% from 32.7% in Q4 2022.

Out of those who are unemployed, 48.3% did not have a matric, while 40,7% had a matric.

Graduates only accounted for 2.7% of unemployed South Africans, while 7.5% had other tertiary education.

The graduate unemployment rate of 10.6% is 22.3 percentage points lower than the national unemployment rate. However, unemployment among graduates has skyrocketed over the last decade.

South Africa’s 10.6% unemployment rate for graduates is far higher than the 5.5% recorded in Q1 2013 – marking a 5.1% increase over the past decade.

Moreover, other tertiary education unemployment has grown to 23.5%, almost doubling since Q1 2013’s 11.9%, reported StatsSA.

Despite the total unemployment numbers also increasing from 25% in Q1 2013 to 32.9% in Q1 2023, it is concerning that young, skilled South Africans are not finding employment.

Skills mismatch

Last year, PwC said that a key reason for unemployment among graduates in South Africa was a skills mismatch between companies and graduates.

PwC said that universities are trying to make graduates more employable by reviewing and changing their curricula to improve job readiness, but South Africa’s youth are also choosing degrees that are not in demand.

Current in-demand skills, according to CareerJunction, include those in the field of finance, sales, IT, management and manufacturing – all of which require some form of tertiary education.

“Looking at young jobseeker trends, it is evident that 15- to 24-year-old applicants are actually aligned to the overall demand trend. The top occupational job sectors attracting the majority of young professionals are currently Admin, Office & Support, Finance, Sales, Business & Management and IT,” said jobs portal Pnet.

Skills emigration 

A recent white paper from payroll services group Playroll, with support from marketplace OfferZen and executive recruitment firm Aims International, said that businesses are losing skilled South Africans, especially young and skilled workers, to emigration.

Research from the groups showed that 80% of all surveyed business leaders believed that the emigration of skills was one of the biggest risks to their organisations.

Playroll said that the emigration of skills is concerning as young people are the one’s leaving, with those aged between 25 and 40 the most likely to leave the country.

Moreover, it said that more than half of the graduates in the country have the potential to migrate.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) reported that in 2021, the biggest portion of individuals changing their tax residence status were those between 25 and 32 years old (32%) – up from 27% in 2018.

Tax experts at Tax Consulting SA said that younger South Africans were likely ending their tax residency to seek opportunities abroad.

Read: Load shedding is pushing rich South Africans out the door

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