Jobs crisis worsens at a swift rate
• Employment declines by 34,000 — Stats SA
The South African economy continues to bleed jobs, with Statistics SA reporting on Thursday that employment had declined by 34,000 jobs in the second quarter of 2017.
The second-quarter employment survey has validated fears expressed by trade unions and analysts in the first quarter that the unemployment crisis in the country would worsen.
Formal non-agriculture jobs fell by 48,000 in the first quarter, courtesy of a dour performance in manufacturing, transport, trade and finance and business services.
Stats SA said that while Thursday’s figures showed a gain of 13,000 jobs when compared with a similar period in 2016, the figures were unlikely to allay fears that the weakened economy was shedding jobs at a fast rate.
Mining and trade were recorded as having increased by 6,000 jobs. This is despite the thousands of retrenchment notices issued by mining houses in recent months.
Their effect will be felt in the third quarter, when new data are released.
Second-quarter job losses were driven by the manufacturing industry, with 13,000 jobs lost and the construction industry with 11,000 jobs.
The Quarterly Labour Force Survey in August showed the unemployment rate increased to 27.7%, with the construction, agriculture and mining sectors the worst hit. At the time, Cosatu and the South African Federation of Trade Unions warned that unless the government rose to the challenge, employment prospects would remain bleak.
The quarterly employment survey excludes agriculture and personal households in its sample of 20,000 businesses.
Economist Thabi Leoka said the new figures pointed to an ailing economy and it was unlikely that it would improve.
“There is a slowdown in investment and a general subdued growth in the economy. Companies tend to employ when they are performing well and the economy is doing well,” Leoka said.
The survey also revealed that total earnings paid to employees declined by R2bn to R586bn, which was an optimistic R33bn higher than June 2016.
“There was an annual increase of R33bn, or 6%, com- pared with the previous year,” said Stats SA.
The quarterly decrease was blamed partly on bonuses paid to banking sector employees in the first quarter.
Leoka said the unemployment crisis was not solely based on the lack of economic growth, but was also about investor and business confidence.
“We have had jobless growth. The detail is in dealing with the structural problems of the economy and making sure that the population has the skills that the economy requires and this speaks to all levels in the education system,” she said.
The reforms advocated by Leoka are similar to the sentiments expressed by Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla, who told Business Day on Thursday that the new data pointed to a lack of policy coherence and political stability.
Pamla also said that what was being witnessed was the result of a “leaderless country” and the ramifications of state capture and corruption.
The federation went on a nationwide strike on Wednesday, protesting against corruption. It attributed the high unemployment rate to the government’s failure to tackle it.
“It is sad that despite all that is happening with job losses, we are hearing nothing from Cabinet and Treasury about what could be the solution, despite our numerous calls for a jobs summit,” he said.
Cosatu first called for a jobs summit more than five years ago, citing a need for all stakeholders in the economy to converge to find lasting solutions.