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The unemployment rate in South Africa is the highest in the world4 min read

August 26, 2021 3 min read


The unemployment rate in South Africa is the highest in the world4 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A usual question everyone is asked as a student is what they want to be when they grow up? Some want to be astronauts, others doctors. Some, teachers, other artists. Some scientists, and others police officers.

Something that resembles a job seems like the usual course of action after years and years of learning in a school, college, and a university.

But learning remains a privilege as does the possibility of a job on finishing the learning to qualify for jobs. And this privilege or its lack comes under the umbrella of the term “unemployment’.

What is unemployment?

Unemployment rate is the number of people who are able and willing to work but who cannot work because of an absence of jobs.

In India, the urban unemployment rate in June 2021 was 10.07%, and rural unemployment rate stood at 8.75%. Just in April and May this year, 22.7 million job were lost! In the beginning of the pandemic, in May 2020, unemployment rates rose to 23% in the urban population, and 21% in the rural population. Moreover, 94% of India’s workforce is part of the unorganised sector which made them ineligible for unemployment allowance during the pandemic.

What’s happening in South Africa?

A Bloomberg report posits South Africa as the nation with the highest unemployment rate with a staggering 33.2%. In its expanded definition, which includes people who have now stopped looking for jobs, the unemployment rate has gone up to 44.4%.

Image: Al Jazeera

The unemployment rate in the country increased in the second quarter of the year to 34.4% as against 32.6% in the first quarter. The chances are that the third quarter will see another hike as the government has imposed COVID-29 restrictions on the industry in light of third-wave infections. The economy of the country has also suffered a hit because of the pandemic.

The possible reasons


In July, the country saw its most violent protests ever since it became democratic in 1994. South Africa’s erstwhile President, Jacob Zuma, who governed the country from 2009-2018, was arrested and charged for corruption, and compliance with a group of controversial businessmen hailing from Saharanput, Uttar Pradesh. This arrest led to violent rioting Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces that serve as important economic hubs for the country.

Image: BBC

The riots claimed 354 lives and thousands of businesses. This unrest cost the country 3.3 billion USD, and put 1,50,000 jobs at risk. And this for an economy that had reached an all-time low since 1946 owing to the pandemic.

Structural problems

South Africa has struggled with an unemployment rate of 20% for the last two decades even though economic output has increased by 5% in the same timeframe. The country’s education system lacks in providing a skilled workforce. South Africa’s strict labour laws do not help the case, either.

History of discrimination

Image: DW

Moreover, South Africa has a troubled history with the apartheid-era strategy that forced many coloured citizens to be live in small townships on the outskirts of the main cities, making formal jobs less accessible to them.

With excerpts from Al Jazeera, BBC, Indian Express, Business Today, and Financial Express

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