Economic development

SA’s jobs bloodbath gets worse

South Africa’s high unemployment rate is not only bad, but on closer inspection “it gets worse and more complicated”, according to a report in the Daily Friend.

Their closer inspection was prompted by the “jobs bloodbath” report in Business Day, highlighted in Vol 138 of this bulletin, giving details of StatsSA’s latest quarterly employment statistics.

Daily Friend said the jobs losses in the quarterly employment statistics, based on a survey of employers, partially conflicted with StatsSA’s other labour publication, based on surveying households, which indicated an increase in jobs between the fourth quarter of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023.

Quarter-to-quarter indicators can be conflicting, it said, so it researched back five years. In June 2018, the quarterly employment survey estimated 9 034 000 full-time formal employees. In the latest report this was down to 8 818 000, a drop of 216 000 formal jobs.

“It is difficult to exaggerate how impressive that is, in a negative sense. Many peer markets, including much poorer countries, experienced the return of pre-lockdown jobs by 2021 and have since had massive job-booms. But not us.

“Then there are the population numbers. Stats SA’s 2018 mid-year population estimate indicated 57 725 600, which grew to a population of 60 604 992 by mid-2022. That means 2 879 000 more people and 216 000 fewer full-time formal workers.

“Except it is worse than that, because the population has subsequently increased even further during the 2023 round of job-shedding, but it is not clear by how much.”

Daily Friend said South African jobs were going down not only in quantity, but possibly also in quality.

“With a proper inflation adjustment, the average monthly earnings are now lower than they were in May 2018. Combine that with fewer jobs and more mouths to feed and you begin to see the horror. There are an estimated 4.7 million children in South Africa stunted by malnutrition,” it reported.