As measured by the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), the national employment rate for youth aged 18–28 has decreased by a percentage point year-on-year to 52.5% for 2018Q1. This compares to the overall employment rate, which remained constant at 73.3%.
Due to new entrants coming in to the labour market at the start of the year, there was an overall rise in both employment (up by 206,000) and unemployment (up by 100,000) for the total population, compared to the previous quarter. This resulted in a marginal rise in labour force participation and absorption, driven by sectors including community and social services, manufacturing, construction, trade and business services. Sales and service was the sector that received the highest gains in employment.
Despite a stagnant national unemployment rate, the numbers tell a very different story for youth aged 18-34. There are over 100,000 fewer young people in employment compared to a year ago, and the unemployment rate, at 47.5%, has increased by over a percentage point year-on-year. As a result, South Africa now has the highest number (5,546 million) of young, unemployed people ever recorded. The barriers to employment experienced by youth are more real than ever, with the data showing that those who are able to move into employment tend to be older.
Harambee’s employment rate, calculated from real-time data, is lower than that of the quarterly labour force survey; although the trends are similar. This is because Harambee reaches excluded youth who tend to face higher structural barriers to employment. The Harambee employment rate remains in line with the QLFS youth employment rate, providing us with an indication as to potential labour market movements in the next quarter.
The employment rate among Harambee candidates declined slightly in the first quarter of 2018; but recovered slightly in the second quarter. This could be driven by the increase in business and consumer confidence in the economy, and hopefully bodes well for higher youth employment this quarter.
Harambee believes that inclusive, scalable solutions to increase youth employment are possible. This edition of Breaking Barriers outlines the network barriers faced by youth when searching for a first job, and how these can be solved to increase the likelihood of success in a job search.
** Youth includes all 18-28 years old
*** Note: Harambee employment rate is much lower than the national employment rate as Harambee does not include the informal sector and specifically targets low-income urban youth excluded from the formal economy.