The statistics released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) in February 2020 for the fourth quarter of 2019 present a grim picture about the country’s employment situation. Stats SA indicates that of the 38,7 million people of working age (15-64 year olds), 29% (6.7 million) were unemployed, while 15,6 million were not economically active (including the discouraged work seekers - those who have given up on the hope of finding jobs). It is important to note that the 29% count only considers the jobless as those who were not employed during the reference period (usually four weeks prior to the survey); were actively looking for a job or to start a business in the four weeks prior to the being interviewed; and were available to work or willing to start a business. This is called the narrow definition of unemployment which only counts the unemployed as the “searching unemployed” and thus excludes the “discouraged work-seekers” or “non-searching unemployed” in the definition and count of the unemployed. When the broad or expanded definition (which includes the non-searching unemployed) is used, South Africa’s unemployment situation becomes even more grimier. Using the expanded definition, Stats SA indicates about 38,5% of those who could be working are unemployed. So, despite that South Africa sits astride a “demographic sweet spot” in which the number of the economically active people outweighs that of the economically dependent, it is not able to harvest the benefits of the “demographic dividend” because of high levels of unemployment. This exerts a huge pressure on the country’s fiscus in providing social services such as health and education within the context of a reduced tax base. Click here to continue reading.