South Africa: Unemployment Soars in South Africa

Unemployed young men in Mamelodi, South Africa wait for an offer of casual labour next to businesses that are trading out of converted shipping containers (file photo).

South Africa's unemployment rate has risen to levels last seen in 2008. According to the country's National Statistics Agency, 30.8% of South Africans are now unemployed. This figure is the highest the country has experienced since 2008.

The statistics are mainly caused by the effects of COVID-19 on the economy. The southern African country, one of the most industrialized in Africa, was among the first to record a case of COVID-19 on the continent. It is also one of the most heavily affected countries in Africa.

In response to the pandemic, the government instituted a raft of measures to flatten the infection curve. The covid response involved a total lockdown which halted economic activity, affecting revenue for industry and other productive sectors of the economy.

The lockdown hit businesses severely, prompting restructuring which has seen many employees losing their jobs. In addition, several SMEs will not survive the situation. The increasing number of people seeking employment is a direct result of this situation.

Between July and September 2.2 million more people were listed on the unemployment list.

The 15-24 age group was the most affected as unemployment rose the most within this age group.

Coronavirus exacerbated the country's already existing challenges which include a weakening rand.

Last week the country opened up its airways to international visitors in a bid to promote international tourism; in what would have been the country's peak tourism season.

As part of recovery efforts, the government unveiled a recovery plan aimed at reviving the economy. As part of the efforts, the government plans to add an e-visa system and extend visa waivers to more tourism markets. In addition, there are plans to improve power generation to ease power shortages, with the aim of ultimately improving industrial output.

If these measures are successfully implemented, it would directly impact the rate of productivity and consequently the unemployment rate.

The country is currently battling to stabilize its economy on the back of falling commodity prices, an electricity crisis, as well as controlling corruption and mismanagement in key economic sectors.

On top of that, the possibility of a second wave of the coronavirus is still highly probable.

The country's president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has urged citizens to continue upholding handwashing and distancing protocols to avoid a second wave of infection in the country. Another wave could have a potentially devastating effect on the already fraught economy.

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