South Africa's official unemployment numbers as announced by the national statistics agency this week, although alarming, still paint a rosier picture than the reality many people experience, labour union Solidarity said on Thursday. Picture: Phill Magakoe

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's official unemployment numbers as announced by the national statistics agency this week, although alarming, still paint a rosier picture than the reality many people experience, labour union Solidarity said on Thursday.

The jobless rate rose to 29 percent of the labour force in the second quarter of 2019 from 27.6 percent in the first three months of the year, the highest since a quarterly labour force survey was introduced in 2008, Statistics South Africa said on Tuesday.

But unemployment was even higher at 38.5 percent when using the expanded definition which includes people discouraged from actively looking for work.

On Thursday, Morné Malan, a senior researcher at the Solidarity Research Institute, said although the use of the narrow definition of unemployment was common practice around the world and recommended by the International Labour Organisation, this measurement was inaccurate for South Africa's labour force.

"South Africa has an exceptionally large gap between the narrow definition of the unemployment rate and the expanded definition (and) we have a particularly low labour absorption rate (42.4 percent)," Malan said.

"A 2013 study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal indicates that so-called discouraged jobseekers, who are not counted as unemployed in the official rate, are in no way less likely to be employed than so-called active jobseekers," he added.

Solidarity said a 38.5 percent unemployment rate demanded even greater action from government to tackle the challenges of structural unemployment.

"The government is causing the problem with counter-productive policies such as minimum wage, strict labour legislation, intensified enforcement of black economic empowerment, and many more," Malan said.

"The only solution to the problem is for government to eliminate these barriers to doing business in South Africa. Otherwise, I fear that unemployment, which is accompanied by countless other social and economic issues, will never be resolved."

- African News Agency (ANA)