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Bleak outlook: Fewer black youth gain skilled employment

A welder works fabricating a piece of equipment at Sequoia Environmental Remediation, a leading environmental supply and service company in Calgary, Alberta, June 3, 2014. Image, REUTERS, Todd Korol.

A welder works fabricating a piece of equipment at Sequoia Environmental Remediation, a leading environmental supply and service company in Calgary, Alberta, June 3, 2014. Image, REUTERS, Todd Korol.

Published Jul 3, 2022

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Statistics South Africa ran a labour force survey twice a year.

The government was concerned about the quality of the data and approached the Statistician General and the Statistics Council to interrogate the adequacy or otherwise of the Labour Force Survey.

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I then invited some experts to evaluate the adequacy of this survey. At the end of their mission, the experts recommended that the twice a year, the survey be reviewed.

The review and recommendations took three years to implement from 2005.

In the main the parallel survey results of the twice-a-year survey did not differ much from their parallel quarterly twin, which prepared for the implementation of the new survey as a replacement of the twice-a-year survey.

Graph 1

The new Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) came out in 2008, which measures the labour market in terms of employment, unemployment, participation rates and labour search patterns.

This is analysed by age, race, sex, place of residence and level of education, among many other variables. It is one of the most informative surveys that Statistics South Africa produces religiously.

The survey showed that South Africa reached its lowest level of unemployment in 2008, when although still high, the unemployment rate was barely above 20 percent. An important value of statistics is time series. Without it, statistics is empty.

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If you ever doubted that the youth of South Africa, especially the Blacks and the Coloureds, have no future in this country, you need to look at the QLFS results of 2016, 2017 and 2020 and compare these with those of a survey of 1994 and the QLFS of 2008.

I present two critical graphs, above, that will numb your nerves into a deep sleep or a nightmare.

Graph 1 shows the number of people employed in South Africa as well as those who were not employed in 2018.

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According to this graph, by 2018, which is a decade from 2008, those aged 25-34 had stopped increasing in terms of employment and remained at 4.8 million. And those aged 15-24 had their absolute share in employment dropping from 1.6 million to 1.5 million.

All other age groups above 35 years of age had their share of employment increasing. Even before Covid, a mere two years since 2018, those aged 15-34 had their employment slashed, and by 2022, a total of 1.8 million fewer youth were in employment compared to 2008, ironically, in the context of a growing population.

Another important statistic is that relating to the proportion of those employed in skilled jobs in successive time periods up to 2020. They are compared to 1994, and this is by race. While the Whites and Indians intensified their share in skilled employment across all ages by a significant margin, Blacks and Coloureds made a pithy move. In fact, while 17 percent of Blacks in the age group 25-34 were employed in skilled jobs in 1994, the proportion had shrunk to 14 percent and stayed stagnant in the observations of 2016, 2017 and 2020.

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Black and Coloured youth, already butchered by the harsh reality of stagnation as regards skilled employment progression, have their younger siblings hoping to write exams in June in search of a brighter future, darkened by Eskom now on its knees and ready for the great slaughter.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the Director of the Economic Modelling Academy, a Professor of Practice at University of Johannesburg, a Research Fellow at Oxford and the former Statistician-General of South Africa. Picture, Thobile Mathonsi.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the Director of the Economic Modelling Academy, a Professor of Practice at the University of Johannesburg, a Research Fellow at Oxford and the former Statistician-General of South Africa.

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