Tackle joblessness, tackle crime
According to Statistics South Africa, the country’s unemployment rate came in at a staggering 27.7% in the second quarter of 2017. Although this figure remained unchanged from the previous quarter; it is the highest unemployment rate the country has seen since its peak in 2003.
According to Wits professor, Prudence Majego, this increase in unemployment may hold dire consequences for the country’s crime statistics.
Majego, a senior Economics lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, presented her research at the Economic Society of South Africa’s 2017 biennial conference hosted at Rhodes University in Grahamstown this week.
The Society, established in 1925, is a discussion forum for economist in academic life, government and business.
“What I have found in my preliminary research is that [given the current unemployment rate] the overall crime rate may increase by approximately 2.9%. This, however, is not a figure cast in stone” said Majego.
Majego is conducting research on the effect of unemployment on crime in South Africa. She and her research partner, Miracle Ntuli, have found that unemployment and crime in South Africa go hand in hand.
Majego explained that property crimes, especially burglary, are the most affected by an increase in the unemployment rate.
“We have found that when the unemployment rate increases, property crime rates increase as well. Property crime rates may go up by as much as 11% when the un- employment rate increases by only 1%”.
According to Crime Statistics South Africa, 3 371 crimes were reported in Grahamstown last year. Property crimes made up 910 of this total. Burglary at residential premises, at a staggering 515 reported crimes, made up the highest percentage of this figure.
The number of reported crimes in the Grahamstown area stands alongside an unemployment rate of between 70% and 80% in 2016.
Crime remains a serious issue in South Africa. Accord- ing to a report released by Statistics South Africa in May 2017, housebreaking/burglary made up 50% of all crimes experienced by households.
The report states that although occurrences of housebreaking/burglary and home robbery have gone down in the last five years, the proportion of households that think that crime is still increasing is on the rise.
In this, the number of South African households who no longer feel safe to walk in their own neighbourhoods during both the day and night has also increased, Majego said.
“The take-home message from our preliminary research has been that unemployment definitely has an impact on crime - violent crime at that,” said Majego. She said when it comes to crime and unemployment, one cannot tackle one without addressing the other.
“If policies were to be implemented that reduced unemployment it would also have a significant effect on the amount of crime we see in the country, especially robberies with aggravated circumstances.”