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South Africa unemployment: 1994 – 2015

South Africa unemployment: 1994 – 2015

South Africa is projected to have the 8th highest unemployment rate in the world in 2015, according to a new report issued by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Depressingly, the report forecasts that the situation is not expected to change for the next five years.

The World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2015 report provides a forecast of global unemployment levels and explains the factors behind this trend, including continuing inequality and falling wage shares.

The ILO said that global unemployment is still rising even though six years have passed since the onset of the global financial crisis.

“More than 61 million jobs have been lost since the start of the global crisis in 2008 and our projections show that unemployment will continue to rise until the end of the decade,” said ILO director-general Guy Ryder.

“This means the jobs crisis is far from over so there is no place for complacency.”

Some 201 million people were jobless around the world last year, and the number would increase by 3 million this year and by a further 8 million in the following four years, the UN labour body predicted.

The main reason for the prolonged rise in unemployment was that hardly any country had reached pre-crisis growth levels.

Widening income inequalities hurt consumer demand and slowed down economic growth, its experts said in the report.

They noted that up to 40% of total global income is being earned by the richest 10%, while the poorest 10% account for only 2% of the total.

In 2015, unemployment in South Africa is expected to recover by 0.1% to 25.0% in 2015.

Despite the expected slight recovery, however, South Africa will remain the country with the 8th highest unemployment rate in the world.

The country ranks even more poorly in terms of youth unemployment (6th, globally), with a rate of 52.5%.

Highest unemployment rates in the world (2015 projections)

# Country Unemployment rate
1 Mauritania 30.9%
2 Réunion 29.4%
3 The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 28.2%
4 Bosnia and Herzegovina 27.5%
5 Guadeloupe 25.8%
6 Lesotho 25.7%
7 West Bank and Gaza Strip 25.3%
8 South Africa 25.0%
9 Greece 24.6%
10 Spain 23.6%

Based on 2014’s estimates, South Africa was ranked as the country with the 9th highest unemployment rate (25.1%), just ahead of Spain (24.7%).

Historical data shows that South Africa has always had a really high rate of unemployment, entering into the ‘top’ 10 for the first time in 1997 with an unemployment rate of 22.9%.

The country’s worst levels of unemployment were experienced in 2002 and 2003, when the rate climbed over 27%; however, relative to other countries, the highest placement in the ranking was in 2000, when the rate of 26.7% was the 5th highest in the world.

Looking ahead to 2019, the ILO projects that the country’s unemployment rate will improve – very slightly – though the global positioning will likely deteriorate.

South Africa Unemployment

South Africa Unemployment

South African unemployment levels 1994-2019

Year Unemployment rate Global rank
2019 24.7% 6th
2018 24.8% 6th
2017 24.8% 6th
2016 24.9% 7th
2015 25.0% 8th
2014 25.1% 9th
2013 24.6% 9th
2012 25.0% 7th
2011 24.7% 6th
2010 24.7% 6th
2009 23.7% 8th
2008 22.7% 9th
2007 22.3% 10th
2006 22.6% 12th
2005 23.8% 9th
2004 24.7% 10th
2003 27.1% 8th
2002 27.2% 7th
2001 25.4% 8th
2000 26.7% 5th
1999 25.4% 9th
1998 25.0% 9th
1997 22.9% 10th
1996 21.0% 14th
1995 16.9% 26th
1994 20.0% 18th

More on unemployment

South Africa in high unemployment state

Unemployment creeps higher in SA

High unemployment to persist: SARB

SA youth unemployment shock

BusinessTech's Staff Writer is directly plugged into the South African Internet backbone, and spits out press releases and other news as they receive it. They are believed to be cl...
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  • Archerbald

    So…Apartheid was actually a g…uhm…never mind.

    • Bones

      we know that Archerbald but we are not allowed to say it because then we are racists ! !

      • r0j0e

        “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.

        Nelson Mandela”

        I hate the ANC government as much as anyone else, but oppression is not right, whichever way you want to spin it.

        • Ga77a

          Are you saying the people are not oppressed now?

          • r0j0e

            no, I’m saying the oppression of apartheid was not right, in spite of whatever benefits we (the country) gained from it

          • Bones

            Apartheid was never the issue people ! blacks still lived in South Africa they were not allowed to live between the Whites an were not allowed to own land ! if my memory service me correct ! And this was pushed upon us by the British no one else ! Now in this time of democracy they are still our biggest clients ! And now you ask “how is that?” PETROL people Petrol ! ! We all know Bp. What does Bp stands for “BRITISH PETROLEUM”, Bp sets the price on petrol and the government follow, so you see , the ANC still hang on to Apartheid all that is happening is , they are turning it around! Land claims is but one example, look at Zimbabwe there were never apartheid there but still they announced Yesterday that they will start with land claims on white farms and people owning more than one farm ? ! ! ! This bringing me back to unemployment, productive Farms were taken and given to “previously disadvantaged” people and now go have a look at those farms ! THERE IS NOTHING LEFT OF ONCE PROSPERING FARMS ! ! Farmers employed blacks gave them a place to stay, a job, food to eat. Unemployment was at its lowest in apartheid ! dont give apartheid the blame ! BLAME THE GOVERNMENT FOR IMPLEMENTING BEE ! ! I can go on all day but I have work to do ! I do agree oppression is wrong but should the government not learn from the past ? and move away from the faults of years gone by ?

          • RagingTiger

            Can you vote for who you want, can you go to what church you want, can you say the government is bad without fear of jackboots at the door, can you marry who you want?

        • Archerbald

          Seriously dude, now you’re just being racist.

    • Byron Arts

      Apartheid had to end. Stronger currency, better run country-yes. But basically a racist setup. We need apartheid without the racisim, sort of everyone can vote but they must vote for a goverment that will not steal, control the borders and create jobs…….ect

  • Guest

    Give the ANC a Bells for yet another milestone of failure.

    • Bones

      NO GIVE THEM A CASE ! ! !

      • Pah! Bells! They want Johnny Walker black . eish!

    • Wurnman

      No bru, don’t wast a Bells, rather a pap sak.

      • D3rP3R

        bleh, give them all a orange uniform.

    • Do you mean a large old fashioned school bell blow with a degree of force to the head?

    • MasiX

      its amazing how you think is the sole responsibility of the ANC to fight unemployment. couz i think its that some thinking that got us where we are now. Please think that Gov/ANC owes them a JOB or something, we can help others but creating job opportunity and help the Gov to fight unemployment couz alone then will not b able

      • Byron Arts

        No country can operate without an operating system and no country can operate without a effective government. It is the governments fault and they are the ones with all the power and they are the policymakers. Its that simple. At least people in this country have the brains enough not to vote for Julius Malema who does not even have a matric. Why must the whole country pay for the mistakes of the black elite? ? Zuma has 6 wives which we pay for in a first world country this is illegal.

      • Ed Van Zyl

        ANC own Telkom keep internet costs high so reduce job creation with internet, Anc in bed with Unions so allow annual strikes keeps South Africa noncompetitive internationally so manufacturing does not grow. ANC reduces levels of education so creates unemployment, ANC does not build Universities etc etc, the list is endless.

  • Bjorn Olsen

    Out of interest, what is the criteria for being on this report? Djibouti for instance has a reported unemployment of about 60% (Google), but presumably a small population size.

    • Bjorn Olsen

      Perhaps there is a subset criteria for the list of countries reported on…

      So likely not X worst “globally” as reported.

      In the subset you can however still see a consistent deterioration of SA employment rate since the mid 1990s – relative to both SAs stats historically and relative to the subset (assuming the subset is a fixed list each year).

  • 3rd Eye

    What a garbage article with half truth stats! Yes we have a high unemployment rate, but its articles like these that make South Africa seem like a war torn country and place fear in potential investors of coming over here and helping relieve the 25% unemployment rate. Currently the DRC has a 66.0% unemployment rate. Burundi 35%, Angola 35%,Djibouti 59.5%,Haiti 40.6% etc etc. Failed to mention that in your article? SOUTH AFRICA! MY COUNTRY MY HOME! Please go write for tabloids if you have nothing better to do with your time. *drops mic and walks off stage*

    • Bones

      I agree the unemployment rate is more like 43% and of that 43% unemployed 20% have given up looking for work ! ! they are probably talking about the 25% that are still looking for work ! ! this is a bull sh*t artical not worth spending time reading ! !

    • MelcolmX

      I believe there might be truth in this! been here 14 years! I saw an improvement each year in the country from 2001 to 2006! Shortly after the elections rapid decline to present day! Job creation is going backwards wether you living in this reality or not! Growth last year around .26% this year IMF 2.6% if we lucky. If you look at Zuma’s tenure its nothing short of a catastrophe. They need to kick this “Goat Herder”

      • Bones

        Give this man a Bells!

        • Fred

          True,, but wait ,,there’s more! Soon the millions of semi educated ones are going to be more, and more angry! The Zuma ANC will blame the apartheid and the asset/ business owning white man and lo’, they will believe this, The big trouble seen before in Africa will repeat itself! Haaw!

    • VaMutuki

      And Zimbabwe has 95%

      • Wtf

        When I want to move up, I judge my position by looking at those above me, how far I have to go

        When I want to move down, well then I look at CAR and Zim.

        Sad that your ambition is downwards.

        • VaMutuki

          That was not an ambition. It’s a statistical fact.

    • D3rP3R

      well, more people die here than in countries at war….

      • Switll

        Well to tell you the truth in 2006 the farmers murdered in SA since 1994 surpassed 4000, which is more than the SA soldiers that died in the Bush war in Angola?!?! And probably doubled by now

    • jandr0

      [What a garbage article with half truth stats!]

      Stats are from the International Labour Organization, an agency of the UNited nations.

      If you’ve got a problem with the stats, take it up with them.

      [articles like these that make South Africa seem like a war torn country]

      Nowhere does the article suggest that. Comparisons do not imply full similarity.

      [fear in potential investors of coming over here and helping relieve the 25% unemployment rate]

      That is true. Investors do look at the safety and return on investment. So, to get more investment, how about lowering the costs – cutting down on the bureaucratic labour processes, bureaucratic regulations, (economic) regime uncertainty, etc.

      Oh sorry, that would cut into all the self-defeating plans and empty promises being made by politicians. Can’t have that, can we – politicians *must* be seen as heroes.

      And apparently political parties *must* rule forever.

      Ha ha ha, how infantile the world has become.


      Oh, please. Last (and often first) refuge of the scoundrel. Unquestioning, practically blind, patriotism.

      Get real. It is just an arbitrary piece of land on the Earth. With borders mostly being set by a bunch of colonialists and scheming politicians.

      And suddenly, in your mind, those borders become something nearly sacred.

      Get over yourself.

    • Ga77a

      You claim the article as biased, then you state the opposite bias in your comment. Yet the number are correct regardless. At no point did the article refer to SA as ‘war torn’ (who should be writing for tabloids?..huh). True patriotism is to be critical enough to know things are wrong and care enough to make a difference. Not stick your head in the sand and be blindly belligerent towards anyone you consider negative. Investors are not scared off by critical articles/statements, they are scared off when you are deluded enough to think things are better than the number portray.

    • They Say

      Lets rather stick to the facts. Knowledgeable investors worldwide use World Bank unemployment* stats. Latest SA 6th highest of all the countries, higher than any other country in Africa. (The Burundi etc countries you quote have under 10% according to WB who are the experts). Up there are most eastern countries who dont have unions and minimum salary’s. (* = the share of the labor force that is without work but available for and seeking employment.)

    • hairyback

      Just because it’s your country and home doesn’t make it any less of a corrupt, mismanaged and crime ridden dump (With so much potential). And that 25% doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of people who aren’t employed, but are at least trying something like selling a tomato or two on the side of the road, or digging through people’s dustbins for recyclable goods.
      The country needs to acknowledge the truth before they can address it, and people burring their heads in the sand isn’t going to help anyone.

  • Ricardo Burrows

    There’s a lot of statistics in this article but what I can’t
    believe is that countries such as India, Congo, and Liberia that’s not on this
    list has a better employment rate than SA. I’d like to see this “report” by ILO for myself.

    • OldRedNed

      The URL is in this story: World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2015 report – 3rd paragraph down.

    • jandr0

      [ I’d like to see this “report” by ILO for myself.]

      Erm, did you at least start by following the link provided in the article?

  • Brad Peng

    Up up here we go! so what does this tell you? BEE doesnt make any difference!

    • Bones

      precisely it is just killing the economy !

  • D3rP3R

    ok wait, so more people were employed under apartheid?

  • BelieverOfChrist

    Whats going on at MyBroadband? Moan moan moan! Every day more moaning and being critical about some or other thing regarding OUR country. Is it that hard to contribute something useful? What motivates you guys to get up in the morning? Anyone can sit back and criticize. Its take real steel to get in and make it better. I’m unsubscribing after this post because I have better things to do with my time.

    • jandr0

      What a lot of moaning by you.

      [I’m unsubscribing after this post because I have better things to do with my time.]

      Thank you. Hopefully that will stop your moaning.

  • OldRedNed

    What is the true ‘unemployment’ figures for SA? The unemployed + the unemployable? What was that wonderful piece of ANC advice to its youth, ”revolution before education”. Viva ignorant youth lead by ignorant ANC, viva.

  • Wyzak

    Funny how unemployment was actually going down when we had an educated president. But when Nr1 took over it just skyrocketed and leveled out at 25%

  • Fred

    All the more reason that anyone out there with half a brain needs to look for and find opportunities to work for themselves- look at other than the usual industries.
    ” it’s a stone cold fact that we in the Relationship/Referral Marketing business have a better way, and make more millionaires than any other” if I may quote Eric Worre!
    Another fact. In mine- We don’t sell anything but make money on everything!

  • I dont know better

    98% of statistics are made up 😉

  • RSF

    Another scary angle to the figures: a large percentage of our employed population are employed by the state, in a hugely bloated, overpaid and mostly inefficient (but that’s another discussion) public service that South Africa – or more accurately the financially punch-drunk taxpayer – really cannot afford. We might be even higher on that list without this “wonderful” little bit of “wealth redistribution”.

  • Clicker2

    “Unemployment” is defined as having taken active steps to seek employment in the last 30 days. Those who have simply given up are therefore not counted as ‘unemployed’. One wonders what the true rate of unemployment actually is in this country. I’d say 40%.

  • S’nyakanyak

    As I see it; any land which has not enough resources for all of it’s people, is in terms of available resources OVER POPULATED, but no-one ever mentions BIRTH CONTROL and unfortunately it is these poorest of the poor who has the highest birth rate – they breed themselves into mystery !

  • the-TRUTH-Today

    The structural economic landscape of apartheid still firmly entrenched in the economics of SA may serve to propel dangerous radicalism that could destroy our country – a real ticking bomb – that is the TRUTH, Pasop..

  • SABCbut

    These figures are inaccurate. South Africa’s government admit it is 35% and we know it is much higher. Zimbabwe has an official rate of close to 50% so an article like this is not worth the figures

  • Nkabinde

    this is i find hard to believe,unemployment is so high and its bad.Just dont understand why some countries like Nigeria,Zimbabwe Swaziland aint here.

  • hairyback

    Now why don’t the DA bring out signs that say- “Unemployment has gone up by 25% since the ANC took over,” rather than “VOTE DA”

  • Mark Strathmore

    Awesome to be up there competing with the West Bank and Gaza strip. Not.

  • Mr Nobody

    Some observations / questions

    1. Why is there an increase in unemployment in the lead up to the World Cup? That was when construction was at its peak, Government (local and provincial) and companies were throwing money at infrastructure.

    2. Would the increase in “unemployment” be an indication of an increase in self-employment? Is South Africa becoming a nation of entrepreneurs? What is the affect of the information age on unemployment stats?

    3. What determines “unemployment”. Am I unemployed because I’m a self employed sole proprietor?

    4. Blaming the ANC / Blaming the NP – It is possible that we all looking at 1994 as the year of true democracy in SA and attribute to that date the decline of “Apartheid”. Apartheid as a word ended then, there is still an abundance on white on black and black on white racism – it just no longer has a name.

    The unemployment stats showing an increase since 1994, are more than likely attributed to other factors – increase in population and worker migration, an increase in social benefits since 1994, information technology improvements allows for better analysis etc etc. Were the pre-1994 stats inclusive of the entire country? What are the numerators and denominators in the equation?

    A better indicator of prosperity since the decline of apartheid would be household disposable income over the same period.

  • Dennis Pillay

    give the broederbond a coke and brandy with their escape clauses nicely phrased as a sunshine clause(in afrikaans ons het hulle om die bos gelei)

  • Blackaffairs

    How did they leave Zimbobwe out, 95% Unemployment.

  • Kyla

    Where did you get the SA unemployment data?

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