2021 Local election fact sheet: Jobs in South Africa

Ahead of South Africa’s November local government elections, we look at the country’s unemployment figures, which are among the highest measured in the world.

By Africa Check

South Africa is set to hold municipal elections on November 1. Citizens will elect representatives for district, metropolitan and local municipal councils across the country’s nine provinces.
Jobs are a hot-button issue in South Africa, where unemployment rates are very high.
Local political party the Economic Freedom Fighters has vowed to address unemployment by abolishing tenders and employing youth to perform jobs.
In this fact sheet, we answer some of the frequently asked questions about unemployment.How is unemployment defined?

1 How is unemployment defined?

The narrow or strict definition of unemployment includes those who are unemployed and have taken active steps to look for work. The broad or expanded definition of unemployment includes discouraged job seekers.
Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) publishes regular statistics on employment in South Africa. The Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for April to June 2021 estimated a strict unemployment rate of 34.4%. The broad unemployment rate was 44.4%.
This is the highest unemployment level recorded since the QLFS began in 2008, when the strict rate stood at 21.9%.

2 What metros have the highest unemployment rates?

There are eight metropolitan municipalities in South Africa. These are larger municipalities centred around the country’s major cities.
The metro that recorded the lowest unemployment rate in 2021 was Mangaung in the Free State, at 23%. The Eastern Cape’s Nelson Mandela Bay metro recorded the highest, at 39.8%.
The highest expanded unemployment rate was recorded by the City of Johannesburg (43.6%). The lowest was the City of Cape Town (29.8%) in the Western Cape.

3 What is the racial breakdown of unemployment in South Africa?

Employment figures in South Africa show a stark difference along racial lines.
In the second quarter of 2021, 38.2% of black people were unemployed, according to the narrow definition. The figure was 28.5% for coloured people, 19.5% for Indian/Asian people and 8.6% for white people.

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4 What is the youth unemployment rate?

In South Africa, ‘youth’ is defined as people between the ages of 15–34. Earlier this year, Stats SA said that the ‘burden of unemployment is concentrated among the youth’ and that the youth unemployment rate is high, irrespective of education level.
The latest data shows that the unemployment rate for youths aged 15–24 was 52.3% and among those aged 25–34 it was 28.9%. The expanded rate for those aged 15–24 was 73.4%, and among youths aged 25–34 it was 48.6%.

5 How does South Africa rank globally?

The International Labour Organisation is a United Nations agency that looks at labour standards across the globe and produces estimates of unemployment.
According to the organisation’s latest estimates, South Africa had the highest unemployment rate in the world. Djibouti was ranked second and the Occupied Palestinian Territory was third.