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‘Unemployment should be declared a pandemic’: Mzansi weighs in on quarterly labour force survey stats

02 June 2021 - 12:15 By unathi nkanjeni
The country's unemployment rate increased from 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021. File image.
The country's unemployment rate increased from 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021. File image.
Image: RUBY GAY MARTIN

SA’s unemployment rate has hit its highest level since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) in 2008, with an increase of 8,000 unemployed people in the first quarter of 2021.

This is according to Stats SA’s latest QLFS survey released on Tuesday.

The unemployment rate increased from 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 32.6% in the first quarter of this year.

Stats SA said a large number of people moved from the “employed” status to “not economically active” and “unemployed” categories between the two quarters.

“The number of employed persons decreased by 28,000 to 15 million in the first quarter of 2021, while the number of unemployed persons increased by 8,000 to 7.2 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2020, resulting in a decrease of 20,000 (down by 0.1%) in the number of people in the labour force,” said Stats SA.

The survey showed the number of people who were “not economically active” for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 0.3% and the number of “discouraged work-seekers” increased by 201,000 (up by 6.9%) between the two quarters, resulting in a net increase of 164,000 in the “not economically active” population.

“The labour force participation rate was also lower in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the fourth quarter of 2020 as a result of these movements, decreasing by 0.2 of a percentage point to 56.4%. The absorption rate also decreased by 0.2 of a percentage point to 38.0% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the fourth quarter of 2020,” said Stats SA.

The largest employment decreases were observed in private households (70,000) followed by the informal sector (19,000) and agricultural sector (18,000).

Employment increases were only observed in the formal sector (79,000).

The unemployment rate among the black population remains higher than the national average and other population groups. 

Weighing in on the stats, One SA movement leader Mmusi Maimane said: “This government has failed to vaccinate the nation. This government has failed to stabilise state-owned enterprises and failed to stabilise the economy and as a result, more and more jobs are being lost.

“If we don’t roll up our sleeves and build our country we will be condemning this generation to a life of poverty,” said DA Gauteng MPL Makashule Gana.

On social media, scores weighed in on the survey, expressing that unemployment in SA “should be declared a pandemic”.

Here is a snapshot of what they had to say:


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