Unemployment is unacceptably high and has been identified as the biggest risk facing South Africa at the moment, according to president Cyril Ramaphosa who was responding in a parliamentary Q&A session on Thursday (22 August).
Ramaphosa said the high unemployment rate was particularly worrying, with his government currently working on a number of interventions to address the issue.
“These interventions are being implemented as we speak. We have also set up a programme management office within the presidency to focus specifically on the issue of youth unemployment.
“We are working with various partners – including the private sector, labour, and various government departments – and we believe we will be able to address this issue effectively.”
While work on these interventions continue, Ramaphosa said it was more important to create a conducive investment environment in the country.
“For this reason, we are moving with great confidence to the investment conference in November where we believe we will be able to attract more investments to come into our country.”
Ramaphosa said that early indications were positive with both local and foreign investors showing interest in the conference.
Glimmer of hope
While Ramaphosa recognised that South Africa’s unemployment figures are dire, he said that there is also a ‘glimmer of hope’ in the statistics.
He said that an increasing number of people who had previously given up on work are beginning to look for jobs again.
“The numbers have gone up. Clearly, we have to work faster because every year young people add to the number of unemployed in the country,” he said.
“This is a national challenge. All of us need to put our heads together and work together to address this problem. It is a major risk.”
Unemployment at a high
South Africa’s unemployment rate climbed substantially in Q2 2019, StatsSA said at the end of July.
The Quarterly Labour Force Survey for Q2 2019 showed that the unemployment rate increased by 1.4 percentage points from 27.6% in the first quarter of 2019 to 29% in the second quarter of 2019.
This is as a result of an increase of 455,000 in the number of people who are unemployed and an increase of 21,000 in employment, the stats body said.
The country’s unemployment rate last hit over 28% in 2003.
The data shows that shows that of the 6.7 million unemployed persons, 57% had an education level below matric, followed by those with matric at 33,4% in the second quarter of 2019.
Only 2.2% of the unemployed persons were graduates while 6,9% had other tertiary qualifications as their highest level of education.