Youth Unemployment On The Rise In South Africa



South Africa's latest unemployment figures paint a complex picture. While the overall unemployment rate edged slightly higher, the number of employed people actually grew. However, a concerning trend is emerging as youth unemployment is on the rise.



Statistics South Africa's (Stats SA) release of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) on Tuesday indicated a slight increase in the national unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2024. The official rate now sits at 32.9%, reflecting a 0.8 percentage point rise compared to the previous quarter.

While these figures suggest a deteriorating job market, the report paints a more complex picture. The number of employed people in South Africa actually grew by 22,000 in the first quarter. However, this increase was eclipsed by a significantly larger rise in the number of unemployed individuals (up 330,000).

Stats SA explains that job demand is outpacing job creation. More people are entering the workforce, but the economy isn't generating jobs fast enough to absorb everyone.

Shifting Employment Landscape

The report also highlights a shift in employment sectors. Formal sector jobs increased by 56,000, while informal employment declined by 100,000 during the same period. Trade, manufacturing, and agriculture were among the industries experiencing growth, while construction, social services, and finance sectors witnessed job losses.

Youth Unemployment: A Pressing Issue

The news is particularly concerning for young South Africans. The youth unemployment rate (15-34 years old) jumped to 45.5%, a 1.3 percentage point increase from the previous quarter. The number of unemployed graduates also rose to 11.8%. Notably, the total number of unemployed youth increased by a significant 236,000, despite a slight decrease in employed youth.

Focus on Youth Opportunities

Onyi Nwaneri, CEO of Afrika Tikkun, argues that these sobering unemployment statistics are largely linked to the failure to create opportunities for young people. Nwaneri emphasises the need for policymakers to prioritise the interests of young people. They add that young voters hold the power to elect leaders who will address this issue.

Young people have a voice and it's the most powerful voice they can exercise in deciding who will lead them. Whoever we choose as our leader needs to understand that young people need to be at the centre of our development. We cannot continue to have one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world.

Nwaneri acknowledges the efforts of the government and private sector in combating youth unemployment through programmes like YES, National Youth Service, and social employment initiatives. 

However, they point out that the constant influx of young graduates and high school leavers necessitates continuous efforts to address this growing challenge. Nwaneri concludes by urging the government and private sector to make youth employment their top priority.

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