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Understanding South Africa’s Unemployment Figures

Unemployment in South Africa, one of the biggest economies on the continent, has hit record levels, with young people and women the hardest hit. The new data reveal that about 7.8 million South Africans were out of a job in the second quarter of this year, the highest rate since 2008, according to Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) data released Tuesday. The unemployment rate now stands at a record high of 34.4%, one of the highest levels in the world, according to a Bloomberg analysis. Black African women are the most effected, with an unemployment rate of 41%, the agency reports. Young people aged 15-24, and 25-34, recorded the highest unemployment rates of 64.4% and 42.9% respectively, according to the data from StatsSA. Sustained economic disruption from Covid-19, austerity measures, persistent inequality, and poor government policies have all been cited as contributors to the weak numbers. South Africa’s inflows of foreign investment, a key enabler in employment prospects, also declined by 39% to $3.1 billion in 2020. A group of young entrepreneurs in South Africa have stressed that the latest unemployment statistics for the country “suggests a lack of effective policy interventions” on the part of government.