Why Unemployment Rate And Number Of Employed Increased Simultaneously In South Africa


According to the latest figures of the Labour Market Dynamics for 2009 to 2015 released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the rise in employment was largely due to increases in eight out of the 10 industries that drive the economy.

One of Africa’s biggest economies, South Africa, is reporting that the number of employed people had increased by 1.5 million. But the country’s unemployment rate within the same duration went up by 1.6%.

A government statement released on Tuesday stated that, ‘‘The number of people employed between 2009 and 2015 increased from 14.2 million to 15.7 million.’‘

The three biggest increases were seen in:

  • Community and social services (737,000 jobs)
  • Finance sector (336,000 jobs) and
  • Construction sector (216,000 jobs)
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The report further noted that the public sector led in employment creation. ‘‘Between 2009 and 2015 employment levels in the formal sector increased by 968,000 to 10.9 million, while the informal sector increased from 2.2 million in 2009 to 2.6 million in 2015.’‘

Despite the number of employed rising, the absorption rate of people into the labour market was still in the pre-recession levels. ‘‘According to the report, the absorption rate was 43.7% in 2015, which was still 2.2% below the pre-recession high,’‘ the report noted.

The report, provides information on labour market trends between 2009 and 2015. It also highlighted the performance of the country’s labour market, including measures like unemployment, labour absorption and labour force participation rate.

The report noted that the official unemployment rate of 25.3% in 2015 is 1.6% higher than in 2009.

Per other indicators, men, adults and those with experience were ore likely to find work, the opposite is the case for young females without experience. ‘‘Men remain generally better off in the labour market than women,’‘ the Statistician General, Pali Lehohla noted.

Other facts worth noting

  • On the subject of average weekly hours worked, men worked 45 hours per week, while women worked 41 hours per week.
  • The transport industry had the longest average work week at 50 hours per week.
  • The working age population (15 to 64 years) accounted for 66.2% of the total population in 2015, which is larger than the non-working share.
  • The proportion of employees who were entitled to paid sick leave increased by 0.6% to 68.3%.
  • The length of time an employed person stays with their current employer (median job tenure) was 47 months from 2009 to 2011.
  • That statistic however declined to 44 months in 2015.

With respect to earnings, the report observed an inequality between the various population groups over the period 2010 to 2015.

‘‘Between 2010 and 2015, employees in mining and utilities continued to be the top earners with the largest increases in earnings also recorded for these two industries (R2500 and R1500 respectively),’‘ the government statement concluded.

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