From the editor
for a nation that is so easily outraged by anything from rhino poaching to racist comments on Twitter, it is incredible that we reserve so little of this anger to rage against South Africa’s appalling unemployment rate.
The latest data from Statistics South Africa shows a massive 8.16m South Africans are either unemployed or have given up looking for work, an increase of 691 000 from the December quarter. Between the fourth quarter of 2015 and the first three months of 2016, the number of employed people dropped by 355 000 to 15.66m.
Our unemployment rate, excluding discouraged jobseekers, is now 26.7% – among the highest in the world. By comparison, Brazil, which is facing the worst two-year recession on record and the worst political crisis in decades, has seen its unemployment rate increase to only 10.9% in the March quarter.
Our system is clearly broken, but where is the outrage? If not for the implications this huge number of unemployed people has on SA’s efforts to address poverty, inequality and social stability, then at least for the tragedy of more than 8m people who have no chance of fulfilling their potential?
The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) recently published a series of reports looking at ways to address our lacklustre growth and unemployment. Instead of focusing on the unemployment rate, the CDE says a more useful indicator of the degree to which an economy is providing its citizens with productive work is the proportion of the working-age population that is in employment.
According to the CDE, the global norm is for three out of five adults to be working. In SA, however, the figure is two out of five – a third lower than the global average. If we could increase our score to the global average, nearly 6m more people would be working.
To get there, the CDE says we need to do the following: “Rebalance the approach to transformation away from elite enrichment to growth-driven inclusion; “Create an attractive and competitive environment in which to do business for all firms; “Encourage the emergence of labour-intensive industries that use lots of unskilled workers; “Expand dramatically the country’s skills pool; “Put cities at the heart of our national growth strategy; and “Put state-business relations on a new and more constructive footing.” Can you imagine this country if an additional 6m people had productive work?