Good news! The quest for employment continues.

06 Jun 2023

South Africa’s employment rate is showing consistent improvement. At last.

You would be forgiven for thinking that might be a bleak intro to an article on employment, but bear with us. The road goes up and down, and we cannot lose faith in tomorrow.


Last month, Stats SA released the eagerly awaited Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2023. Those of you who were not eagerly awaiting it, might like to know that it is the gold-standard in answers to questions like “How many of us have jobs?” and “How many of us are still looking for jobs?”. It comes out every quarter and with this data, we can get a clearer idea of where South Africa needs to focus employment initiatives and how we compare to other countries around us and the rest of the world.

There is a huge amount of information in the survey but the big number we all worry about is the Unemployment Rate, which according to the latest number is at 32.9%. Just under one third of our population. This number has increased since the previous quarter, but there is good news too. Our Employment Rate has increased for the sixth quarter in a row. This is something we can be proud of.

The nuts and bolts of why this is good news

It might seem confusing that both rates can increase, but that’s because we were only talking about two of the four categories in the survey. Besides for Employed and Unemployed, the QLFS also looks at Discouraged Work Seekers (How many of us are no longer actively looking for work?) and others who are Not Economically Active (How many of us are unable to work or look for work?). These groups form part of what is called the Expanded Unemployment Rate but are examined separately to manage the comparisons between the different reasons behind their unemployment and the opportunities still open to them.

Both categories showed a decrease in their numbers, while there was an increase in the total number of people in what’s called the Labour Force, or total of all the people of employable age in the country. According to the QLFS, this is mostly because there was movement from both categories back into either actively looking for employment or finding it. This is progress.

Consistent improvement over the last six quarters, even after the pandemic, means that we are moving forward despite the loadshedding, and other economic threats that come our way. It is the spark we all need to hold on to when the lights go out.

How do we make the most of this?

We know there is a lot to be worried about, but we will get through it. We are now quite familiar with the fact that permanent jobs are rare, and that we might get a short term contract and work for a few months or years, if we’re lucky, only to start looking all over again. But this is not just South Africa, even countries with far more stable economies have begun to show signs of churning workforces, with job availability rising and falling as businesses close, collapse, move and retrench. From microenterprises to massive multinationals, there is no guarantee anymore.

This still sounds bad, how are we making the most of this?

Just like with any problem, half the battle is accepting there is a problem. South Africans are returning to being economically ACTIVE. We are not laying there, waiting for better days. We are making our better days happen for ourselves by going back to the job market. By getting our UIF, taking our retrenchment packages and reinvesting them in ourselves. Being unemployed is scary and frustrating, but having the strength to move from one job to the next search is a skill that helps us take control. Funnily enough, it also makes you a more valuable employee!

With Legal&Tax you’re not alone

We understand what your employment means to you and we want the best for our clients. That means being right there beside you, protecting the life you are trying to build. When that job contract finally comes, let us check it first. If you get a disciplinary hearing, let us represent you. If you need to fight to keep your job, you are not alone. Contact us 24/7

Article sourced from Legal&Tax.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Michael Visser

Michael Visser is a legal advisor at Legal&Tax. He has a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) Law and LLB from The University of Pretoria. Read more about Michael Visser


Labour Law articles by

Labour Law articles on GoLegal