Statistics SA released the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter, which showed that unemployment had reached a record high of 34.4%. Picture: EPA.
Statistics SA released the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter, which showed that unemployment had reached a record high of 34.4%. Picture: EPA.

SA’s high unemployment rate shocks trade unions

By Itumeleng Mafisa Time of article published Aug 25, 2021

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Johannesburg - Trade unions have been left shocked by the latest increase in South Africa’s unemployment rate of 34.4% in the second quarter. More than 7.8million people are unemployed.

On Tuesday, Statistics SA released the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter, which showed that unemployment had reached a record high of 34.4%.

This is the highest rate on record. The second-quarter figures come at the backdrop of the general unemployment rate that increased from 43,2% to 44,4%, according to the extended definition.

Young people were also not spared from the harsh reality of unemployment, 64.4% of those aged 15 to 24 are unemployed, and 42.9% of those aged 25 to 34 are unemployed.

For graduates, unemployment was lower compared to those individuals who only have matric or less than matric.

General-secretary of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) Zwelinzima Vavi said these statistics were a sign of a country in crisis.

“This is beyond what words can describe. This is a new low. This is still a narrow definition. We are not counting the number of workers who are too discouraged to wake up in the morning and look for work opportunities.

“Eastern Cape was at 50% using this definition. We are dismayed, and we ask the question: ‘Where did things go wrong,’” Vavi said.

He said South Africa was feeling the effects of colonial and apartheid economic frameworks that were impacting the lives of South Africans, especially black people and women. He also blamed the ANC for bad economic policies which have led to the loss of jobs.

“We inherited this from colonialism and the apartheid era, so this has a long history.

“Its face has always been black people, young people, women and women residing in the homelands. That’s the face of the crisis.

“It has continued because the government of the ANC simply refuses to abandon the National Party macro-economic policy framework. They continued with it and tightened it,” Vavi said.

Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the unemployment figures were alarming considering that more than 50% of people in the working-age population are officially unemployed.

“It is also calamitous for the country because it means millions of workers will be dependent on the state for their well-being and that of their families.

“These unemployment numbers are an outcome of the policy choices by the policymakers, and in this regard, the influence of the National Treasury,” Pamla said.

Economist Makwe Masilela said the sharp increase in the rate of unemployment was not due to the looting the country experienced in July. The figures were a reflection of the period between March to June. He said most of the job losses had happened in the financial sector.

He said the increase in unemployment was due to a struggling economy and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Those adjusted level 4 lockdowns happened during the time of a struggling economy. The largest expense to companies is the workers, so if the company is not doing okay, you can absorb them until a certain point. I think the biggest part should be attributed to the economy,” Masilela said.

He said the government should create an environment where business can thrive, which would lead to the employment of people. He said youth unemployment was a deeply concerning issue.

“We rank among the top four when it comes to youth unemployment,” Masilela said.

The Star

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