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The efforts put in by the government, together with other entities, to curb unemployment in South Africa are starting to be noticeable.

The efforts put in by the government, together with public and private entities, to curb unemployment in South Africa are starting to be noticeable. While the shift or drop may not be large, the bit that’s being done is helping shift some margins. Let’s take a look at how the unemployment rates in South Africa are looking and how women remain at the bottom of the stats due to markets being tough on them.

Let’s Look At Some Numbers

South Africa’s stats website, StatsSA, has recorded 154 000 jobs gained, which moved the number of employed people in South Africa to 16.3 million in the second quarter of 2023. According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter of 2023, South Africa’s labour force participation rate increased to 59.6% in the second quarter of 2023 from 58.6% recorded in the second quarter of 2022, an increase of 1 percentage point year-on-year. The labour force participation rate for women stood at 54.3% compared with 64.9% for men, a gap of 10.6 percentage points. Only 54.3% of women of working age in South Africa participate in the labour force either as employed or looking for work. The female labour force participation rate has seen an increase over 10 years by 4 percentage points from 50.3% in Q2:2013 to 54.3% in Q2:2023. However, women remain less likely to participate in the labour force compared to men.

In Q2:2023 the labour force participation rate was highest among South Africans aged 35 to 44 years (78.8%); young people aged 15-24 had the lowest labour force participation rate at 27.2%. The labour force participation rate for women was largest in the age group 35-44 at 72.7%; this, however, is 12 percentage points less than that of men in the same age group. Across all age groups, women are less likely to be in the labour force compared to men. The largest labour force participation gap was in the age group 45-54 at 15.5 percentage points. Female labour force participation showed an increase in all age groups between Q2:2022 and Q2:2023.

Numbers Don’t Lie

CapeTalk Radio’s Bruce Whitfield recently had a conversation with Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, Stellenbosch University’s development economist, on what the latest jobs numbers mean. Here’s what Dr Moleko said:

“Given the extent of the problem, the drop in the unemployment rate of barely half a percentage point is not really something to shout about. I think the main thing that we are seeing is that the expanded definition - when you include the number of discouraged work seekers - the unemployed continue to be stubbornly at 7.9 million. That means we have large masses of people that are unemployed and continue to be excluded from participating in both the formal and the informal sector.”

Dr Moleko also notes that more needs to be done in an effort to curb society’s disinterest in entering the labour market, and we agree that that starts with promises made and kept that will benefit South Africa’s unemployed people. Listen to Dr Moleko’s take on CapeTalk Radio here.

Final Words

Gender disparities in the labour market still exist, and the light shown by these labour market estimates echoes the need to accelerate the enhancement of women’s overall participation in employment, access to more opportunities across economic sectors, and address job gaps that go beyond unemployment. Work is the most effective economic empowerment strategy for women. Women’s labour market participation must consequently be increased. Improving gender equality has numerous positive effects on both individual persons and society as a whole.

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