Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has expressed concern at the country's unemployment figures.
Statistics South Africa, in its Quarterly Labour Force Survey this week, revealed that unemployment in South Africa reached 32.6% in the first three months of the year.
"The progress is still very slow with [the] unemployment rate increasing by 0.1 percentage point, followed by a decrease in employment levels by 28 000 individuals between quarter four of 2020 and quarter one of 2021," he said in a statement on Thursday.
In other words, only 8 000 additional individuals reported to be unemployed between quarter four of 2020 and quarter one 2021.
Comparison on year-on-year change reflects an additional 172 000 individuals that were added in the basket of unemployed people in the country since March 2020. These main results are still indicating that the search for a better life is ongoing in particular the cycle of high inequality, high unemployment and poverty is visible.
This was despite some industries having made some inroads. Nxesi said the overall picture is still a cause for concern.
Major losses were recorded in industries classified as non-essentials. These included construction and trade industries with 87 000 and 84 000 jobs losses, respectively.
The Department of Employment and Labour is however confident that the employment trajectory will relatively surpass the current COVID-19 challenge. This is based on a number of factors, among others, the COVID-19 vaccine programme and the Presidential Employment Stimulus which aims to create new job opportunities," said the department.
Nxesi said the department was encouraged by a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) intervention that saved more 55% of jobs by April 2021.
"Using the results of S189 form, 2 213 out of 4 037 of employees who were potentially going to be retrenched were retained into their jobs.
"Furthermore, the payments made through [the] Unemployment Insurance Fund [UIF] related to COVID-19 TERS was one of the key strategic labour market intervention in line of poverty relief, for the most vulnerable sectors in the country and had it not been for this intervention, the picture would be worse," said the Minister.
He added that the strength of the recovery remains on the implementation of the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP), which calls on all social partners to work together and preserve the country economic development prospects.
"One of the most concerning areas was in the youth category which remains the most vulnerable in the South African labour market.
"For instance, 32.4% of the 10.2 million youth (15-24 years) reported not to be in employment, education or training (NEET) in quarter one of 2021. It constituted 29.6% of NEET in December 2020. Nevertheless, the NEET rate for females was higher than that of their male counterparts in both quarters."
The department said a yearly comparison showed that the percentage of young persons aged 15-34 years who were not in employment, education or training (NEET) increased by 1.9 % points from 41.7% in quarter one of 2020 to 43.6% (out of 20.4 million) in quarter one of 2021.
"This being Youth Month calls upon us to put in place extensive plans to help the youth out of this quagmire.
"Through our labour activations program funded by the UIF, we are seeing a lot of young people take up entrepreneurial work and thriving. This is where employment happens and as the department, we are supporting these enterprises," he said.
"We are also in line to launch a number of Jobs Centres which are targeted mostly to the youth in our country. And through the Public Employment Services, we have been involved in partnerships with a number of industries whereby we source job opportunities."
He said this was already working well in the Cape Winelands District.
"We have seen off takes in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. We are also encouraged by the interest that more young people are showing in the Employment Services of South Africa. We encourage them to register - in fact we encourage any work seeker to register on the system which has been showing notable success in placing work seekers," said Nxesi.