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South Africa – Q3 unemployment reaches highest level since 2008

South Africa – Q3 unemployment reaches highest level since 2008

November 19, 2020

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The unemployment rate in South Africa rose to 30.8% in the third quarter of 2020, up from 29.1% recorded a year ago and an increase of 7.5% compared to the previous quarter, according to data from Statistics South Africa.

The 30.8% rate is the highest unemployment rate recorded since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey in 2008.

South Africa entered a national lockdown and national state of disaster on March 2020.

The data from Statistics South Africa showed that the number of employed persons increased by 543,000 to 14.7 million in the third quarter of 2020, and the number of unemployed persons increased by 2.2 million to 6.5 million compared to the second quarter of 2020. This resulted in an increase of 2.8 million in the number of people in the labour force.

Of the 14.7 million persons who were employed in the third quarter of 2020, 73.2% were expected to work during the national lockdown by the companies/organisations they work for. Those who worked were predominately men in most industries, except in the community and social services sector and private households, where the majority were women. Approximately nine out of ten people employed within the construction industry who worked during the lockdown were men.

Compared to the second quarter of 2020 where 17.0% indicated that they worked from home, this proportion declined to 10.9% in the third quarter of 2020. Working from home was more prevalent in Gauteng and Western Cape and among Professionals and Managers (indicative of access to tools of the trade to facilitate work from home for these workers).

The majority of those in employment continued to receive pay during the lockdown. However, those with lower levels of education were more likely to receive reduced salaries than those with higher levels of education, the labour force survey found.

Meanwhile, despite the increase in the number of discouraged work-seekers (up by 9.1% over the quarter), the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 2.9 million between the two quarters, resulting in a net decrease of 2.6 million in the not economically active population.

A discouraged jobseeker is defined as someone who wants to work but there are no jobs in the area; they were unable to find work that required their skills, or they have lost hope of finding any kind of work.