Unemployment stats still shocking, says SAFTU

The South African Federation of Trade Unions has noted the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the fourth quarter of 2018 released by Statistics South Africa today.

As usual in the fourth quarter of any year there was a small drop in the rate of unemployment, by 0,4 of a percentage point to from 27.5% in the third quarter to 27.1%.

The more realistic expanded rate, which includes those no longer seeking work, fell by 0,3 of a percentage point from 37.3% in the third quarter to 37,0%, but  this is a rise of 0,7 of a percentage point compared to the fourth quarter of 2017.

The increase in employment reflects the extra staff taken on temporarily before the holiday break, most of whom will be unemployed again in the first quarter of 2019. Any complacency or optimism will therefore be completely misplaced. On the basis of these figures South Africa will remain among the countries with the highest proportion of their population unemployed.

It helps to put South Africa’s perspective, that hundreds of thousands of Italians marched through the streets of Rome on Saturday to protest the government’s economic policies, including the lack of full-time employment opportunities, especially for young people – in a country in which unemployment is 9.7 percent, the third-highest in the EU after Greece and Spain, but still around a third of SA’s rate.

In particular everyone should be alarmed at the evidence in the StatsSA report that the South African working-age population increased by 149 000 or 0,4% in the fourth quarter of 2018 compared to the third quarter of 2018.

If that rate is repeated throughout 2019, the total new entrants will add up to 596 000 a year, far higher than the 275 000 new jobs a year promised in the State of the Nation Address!

By far the most alarming statistic in the report is that from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018 the percentage of young persons aged 15–24 years who were not in employment, education or training (NEET) increased by 1,4 percentage points to 31,1%.

The equivalent figure for the percentage of youth aged 15–34 years who were not in employment, the rate of NEET increased by 0,5 of a percentage point from 38,4% to 38,9% in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The rate was higher for females compared to that of their male counterparts. In the 15-34 range four in every ten young females were not in employment, education, or training.

These statistics reinforce SAFTU’s charge that President Ramaphosa’s ‘new dawn’ is a fantasy. After nearly a year in office, he has failed to improve any of the crucial figures on growth, jobs, poverty or inequality. All we have seen are summits, conferences, indabas and, above all empt promises.

The federation will raise all these issues on 20 February when workers demonstrate on Budget Day ad in the massive two-day general strike on 26-27 March to demand that promises are turned into action, for no more retrenchments, jobs and a living wage for all, prosecution of corrupt looters and a socialist, democratically planned economy to expropriate the wealth  the ruling monopoly capitalist class, and bring power to the people!

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