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SA youth face high levels of long-term unemployment, says StatsSA report

THE COUNTRY’S unemployment rate currently stands at 35.3 percent or 7.9 million of working age population, the highest in the world, with youth unemployment remaining at a staggering 65.5 percent. | Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA).

THE COUNTRY’S unemployment rate currently stands at 35.3 percent or 7.9 million of working age population, the highest in the world, with youth unemployment remaining at a staggering 65.5 percent. | Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA).

Published Apr 22, 2022

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THE COUNTRY’S unemployment rate currently stands at 35.3 percent or 7.9 million of working age population, the highest in the world, with youth unemployment remaining at a staggering 65.5 percent. | Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA).

SOUTH Africa’s labour markets could continue experiencing high levels of long-term unemployment among the youth as the economy fails to create jobs on the back of a skills shortage.

The country’s unemployment rate currently stands at 35.3 percent or 7.9 million of working age population, the highest in the world, with youth unemployment remaining at a staggering 65.5 percent.

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The Labour Market Dynamics in South Africa 2020 report, released by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) yesterday, showed that the incidence of long-term unemployment increased by 5.2 percentage points to 70.4 percent over the period 2015–2020.

Long-term unemployment is defined as the number of people who have been unemployed for more than 12 months.

The report showed that the number of unemployed persons rose by 939 000 from 5.3 million in 2015 to 6.3 million in 2020, with Gauteng reporting the highest levels across all the years.

During the same period, the number of employed persons fell by 679 000, from 15.7 million to 15.1 million.

According to the report, women and persons without previous work experience were more likely to be in long-term unemployment.

It said that unemployed women, youth and those who had no previous work experience were less likely to transition into employment.

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StatsSA said young people aged 15 to 34 in the labour market were more vulnerable compared to adults, and they bear the brunt of higher unemployment rates, low absorption and low participation rates.

The youth unemployment rate increased from 35.8 percent in 2015 to 42.1 percent in 2020, while the adult unemployment rate increased from 16.3 percent to 20.2 percent in the same period.

“Throughout the period, the youth unemployment rate was more than double that of their adults counterparts. Of the 15 million people who were employed in 2020, youth accounted for only 34.7 percent,” read the report.

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“The trade, community and social services and finance industries provided more job opportunities for youth when compared to other industries.

“Two in every five employed youth were in elementary, sales and services and domestic work occupations.

“The unemployment rate for youth without matric was more than twice that of youth with tertiary qualifications. The majority of youth who were unemployed had no prior work experience.”

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In both 2015 and 2020, more than a third of young people aged 15 to 24 years were not in education, employment, or training (NEET).

The NEET rate in South Africa is higher for youth who possess a tertiary education level compared to those with lower levels of education.

Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke said the unemployment rate among black Africans remained higher than the national average and that of other population groups.

“Unemployment in South Africa is most acute among black Africans and among those with less than a matric educational qualification and the youth in general,” he said.

“Black Africans accounted for 88.9 percent of the unemployed population compared to 2.4 percent of whites in 2020.”

Economic Development Solutions managing director Janine Espin said there needs to be a rebranding campaign for blue-collar or artisanal trades in terms of skills development for the youth.

“Our economy doesn’t need more lawyers or accountants to rebuild. Instead, school learners need to realise that entering a trade or acquiring a critical skill that is in shortage is the best way to ensure employability and to earn a living reliably,” Espin said.

“For example, every year the government releases its list of critical skills. This is a missed opportunity for youth skills development.”

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