New data published by Stats SA provides insight into the employment landscape within South Africa when broken down by population group.
The national statistical service compared data from the October 1994 household survey, and its 2014 quarterly labour force survey.
It notes that between 1994 and 2014, employment rose by 6.2 million, but the labour force (those working and those seeking work) rose by 8.7 million, resulting in a net increase of 2.6 million in unemployed.
The unemployment rate increased from 22% to 25% over the past 20 years.
Under the expanded definition of unemployment however, the number of unemployed rose by 3.5 million between 1994 and 2014, with the unemployment rate at 35%.
The expanded definition includes those who are unemployed and who are available to work, whether or not they have taken active steps to find employment.
Employed people in SA increased by 69.2%, with 6.16 million more people employed in 2014, from 1994, to 15.054 million. However, the number of unemployed people increased by 103%, or by 2.578 million people, to 5.067 million.
South Africa’s labour force has grown to 20.1 million, from 11.386 million in 1994, Stats SA said.
Based on the expanded definition of unemployment, however, the number of unemployed in SA has grown 73.3% to 8.157 million, from 4.707 million people in 1994.
Unemployment by population group
By 2014 the black African unemployment rate based on the expanded definition had declined from 43% to 40%, but this is of no comfort to the additional 3.1 million black African workforce unemployed, Stats SA said.
In 2014 the numbers of unemployed and the corresponding unemployment rates for educational levels were: less than matric 3 904 489 or 40%; matric 710 622 or 28%; and tertiary 70 650 or 6%.
“Not many would have predicted such an outcome for the post-apartheid period when access to the labour market, at least for those with skills, should have been easier after so many decades of racial exclusion.”
“The trend raises serious questions about the quality and/or appropriateness of tertiary education and reinforces the findings made above regarding skills development,” Stats SA said.
Overall, the fastest-growing group in total employment in SA is the black African population, both in absolute and relative terms.
The black African population made up 63.2% of total employment in 1994 and 72.8% in 2014, an increase of 9.6 percentage points.
All other population groups declined as a proportion of total employment, with the largest decline evident in the white population, down 7.3 percentage points.
StatsSA showed that in the first quarter of 2014, approximately 25% of South African workers were in a skilled occupation, namely managers, professionals and technicians. This was an increase from 21% in 1994.
However, a higher percentage (46%) were still in semi-skilled occupations (e.g., clerks, craft and related trades, and machine operators) in 2014, a slight decrease from 47% in 1994; and 29% were in low-skilled occupations (elementary jobs and domestic work), down from 32% in 1994.
There were substantial shifts towards skilled work among white and Indian/Asian populations, with the proportion of skilled workers increasing from 42% in 1994 to 61% in 2014 among the white workforce, and an increase among the Indian/Asian workforce from 25% to 51% over the same period.
The proportion of semi-skilled workers within the white workforce decreased from 55% in 1994 to 36% in 2014. Only 3% of white workers occupied low-skilled occupations in both 1994 and 2014, Stats SA said.
The black African workforce showed only a slight movement towards skilled occupations, but a more substantial movement towards semi-skilled occupations.
In 1994, 15% of black African workers occupied skilled jobs, increasing to only 18% in 2014. Over the same period the proportion of black African workers in semi-skilled occupations increased from 42% to 48%.