Economic development

High risk of social unrest in SA, says Sasria

South Africa’s high unemployment rate and high levels of power cuts add up to a high risk of social unrest such as it experienced two years ago, according to the head of the state insurance company Sasria.

“The biggest worry is youth unemployment … the youth are sitting and idling,” Sasria CEO Mpumi Tyikwe said in an interview with Business Day.

The SA Special Risk Insurance Association, or Sasria, covers losses from civil unrest. It received claims worth more than R30 billion following the 10-day looting frenzy in July 2021, when protests morphed into an outpouring of anger over everything from endemic poverty to unemployment.

Similar comments were made by employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi, during his keynote address at a jobs expo in Johannesburg.

He said that young people remain vulnerable in the labour market and pose the “greatest risk to social instability in the country”.

The latest unemployment figures from StatsSA show unemployment in the first quarter of 2023 was 32.9%, or 7.9 million people, up from 32.7% the previous quarter.

The youth unemployment rate is much worse, having reached 62.1% officially in the first quarter and 71.2% using the expanded definition, which includes people who are available for work but not looking for a job.

Also speaking at the jobs expo was the European Union ambassador to South Africa, Sandra Kramer. She said the EU wanted to help South Africa create jobs, including in small and medium-sized enterprises.

“The EU is South Africa’s largest trading partner… over 45% of foreign direct investment stems from the EU, there are over 1,000 European companies that are active in South Africa, with 350,000 direct jobs created. That’s the larger context,” Kramer said.

The jobs expo aimed to provide opportunities for jobs seekers to meet prospective employers as well as organisations and government departments that could point them to employment or learning programmes.