Since the demise of apartheid, the South African economy has undergone significant changes with the government implementing various policies aimed at redressing the injustices of the past, fleshing out the welfare system and improving competitiveness as the country becomes increasingly integrated into the global economy. These policies have, directly or indirectly, impacted on the labour market and, consequently, on the lives of millions of South Africans. This paper provides an analysis of some of the important changes that have occurred in the South African labour market since 1994. The paper presents the broad changes in employment, unemployment and labour force participation, finding substantial increases in unemployment and labour force participation rates for all race and gender groups. Employment performance is investigated in the context of economic growth and it is shown that recent economic growth cannot accurately be termed ‘jobless growth’, particularly given doubts about the consistency of the datasets. Employment change is also analysed by sector, occupation and skill category, as well as by various demographic and locational variables. The characteristics of the unemployed are presented, as are those of households in which the unemployed locate themselves. An important finding here is the rapid increase in the number of unemployed individuals with relatively high levels of education (e.g. complete secondary and tertiary education). Furthermore, unemployed individuals appear to be increasingly marginalised in households with no wage or salary earners, raising the demands placed on elderly household members’ state old age pensions and other grants. The paper ends with a brief discussion of the group of individuals referred to as ‘discouraged work-seekers’, namely those individuals who are unemployed according to the expanded definition of unemployment, but who are defined as outside the labour force by the official definition.
South Africa: labour market, labour force participation, 'jobless growth', unemployment
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