How Access To Education Impacts South Africa's Challenged Job Market

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According to the Department of Higher Education, South Africa's labour force showed signs of improvement in 2022, yet significant challenges remain. Data, sourced from the Quarterly Labor Force Survey, highlights the key trends and profiles within the labour market.
 


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In 2022, the South African labour force consisted of nearly 15.8 million employed individuals and 7.7 million unemployed individuals. The employment rate saw a positive increase of 3.2%, rising from 35.9% in 2021 to 39.1% in 2022. Conversely, the unemployment rate experienced a modest decrease of 2% over the same period, dropping from 34.9% to 32.9%.

When examining the gender dynamics within the labour force, it is evident that more men than women were employed in both 2021 and 2022. Furthermore, the absorption rate of men into employment remained significantly higher than that of women.

The Role of Age and Racial Disparities In Employment Absorption

A racial breakdown of the labour force revealed notable disparities. Whites exhibited the highest absorption rates into employment, while black Africans experienced the highest unemployment rates during the same period. 

These statistics underscore the persistent challenges of inequality and the need for targeted interventions to address systemic barriers faced by certain racial groups.

Age played a crucial role in employment and unemployment rates. People aged 45 to 54 had the highest absorption rates into employment, followed by those aged 35-44. However, unemployment rates were highest among the younger age groups, particularly those aged 15-24 and 25-34. 

This emphasizes the need for tailored strategies to enhance job prospects and skills development among the youth.

How Access To Education Determines Employability  

Education attainment was identified as a key determinant of employment rates. Those with tertiary qualifications displayed significantly lower unemployment rates compared to those with lower levels of education. 

The department's data highlights the positive correlation between higher levels of education and increased employment opportunities.

To address this, policymakers must prioritize equitable access to post-school education and training, particularly at the tertiary level, to provide individuals with the necessary skills for better employment prospects.

The Formal Sector Still Dominates The Country's Labour Force 

Despite some positive trends, challenges persist. The department highlighted that the main reasons for unemployment were new entrants to the labour market struggling to find employment and individuals who had lost their jobs. 

Although there was a decline in long-term unemployment from the previous year, over three-quarters of the unemployed had been jobless for a year or more. This indicates the urgent need for policies and initiatives to reintegrate those affected back into the labour market, particularly focusing on addressing their education and skill gaps.

It is important to note that while employment levels experienced a slight recovery in 2022, they still remain below pre-Covid levels. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated unemployment, necessitating government intervention to prioritize initiatives that support job creation and facilitate the reintegration of those who lost jobs during this period.
 

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