While the latest unemployment rate sent shockwaves through Mzansi, Agri SA has noted that, once again, the agricultural sector continues to be a shining light amid tough economic conditions.
This, after Stats SA confirmed a new record high unemployment rate of 34.4% – the highest rate recorded since the introduction of the quarterly labour force survey in 2008. The country now has 584 000 more unemployed people than in the first quarter.
Currently, a staggering 7.8 million South Africans are jobless. Agri SA also points out that South Africa’s unemployment rate has been recorded as the highest compared to its African counterparts, including Namibia and Nigeria.
“The outlook for the job market remains weak,” says a North West Business School economist, Professor Raymond Parsons.
“It is clear the full impact on economic activity of the civil unrest in late July will only become apparent in the third quarter of 2021. The total economic costs of the recent violence and civil unrest have not yet fully emerged.”
Despite shocking levels of unemployment, the agricultural sector contributed 69 000 new jobs compared to the last quarter. In fact, provinces like the Western Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Limpopo have recorded an increase in employment.
“The increase of employment in the agricultural sector is showing the sector’s commitment to job creation, food security and growth of the economy despite many challenges,” says Lebogang Sethusha, industrial relations administrator of Agri SA.
“The organisation, however, is concerned about the quarter-to-quarter decrease of skilled workers, indicating the loss of skills within its workforce. This places a great emphasis on accelerating efforts in skills development in the sector.”
According to Sethusha, skilled agricultural employment has dropped from 62 000 in the first quarter to 45 000 in the second quarter.
This is a 27.4% quarter-to-quarter decrease and a 33.2% year-on-year decrease. Stats SA defines skilled agriculture as persons who have undergone training or education in and/or outside their work environment.
Speeding up economic recovery
Meanwhile, Parsons tells Food For Mzansi in these negative circumstances unemployment is now indeed the “cruellest tax” on vulnerable sectors of the population and job creation continues to demand top priority.
“There is, however, no quick fix,” says Parsons. “Given the current uncertainties in the economic outlook, the immediate overall job situation is therefore likely to get worse before it gets better.
“The latest unemployment figures, nonetheless, send a renewed message that the balance between lives and livelihoods in handling the pandemic remains an acute dilemma which needs to be carefully managed in the period ahead.”
Parsons believes that existing job support measures must, in the meantime, be intensified.
“The unemployment situation injects urgency into the implementation of the various important existing short-term economic support measures, so as to offset to some extent the hardships being experienced by companies and workers who have been economically badly hit. It also highlights the importance of expediting the vaccination programme to speed up economic recovery.”
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