While some industries have shown small employment gains, the overall picture is still a cause for concern, with a large decrease in employment between 2020’s fourth quarter and the first quarter of this year in industries classified as non-essential, which saw between 84 000 and 87 000 jobs lost.
Employment by private households decreases by 70 000 jobs quarter-on-quarter, while the finance (215 000), community (16 000), utilities (16 000), mining (12 000) and manufacturing (7 000) sectors recorded increases in employment.
The Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) is, however, confident that the employment trajectory will look up despite the current Covid-19 challenge, although this is based on a number of factors, such as the Covid-19 vaccination programme and the Presidential Employment Stimulus – which aims to create new job opportunities.
Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi on June 3 said the department was encouraged by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration’s (CCMA’s) intervention in saving more than half the jobs (55%) at risk that it adjudicated on, by April 2021.
Using the results of the Section 189 form, 2 213 out of 4 037 of employees who were potentially going to be retrenched were retained in their jobs, the Minister said.
He added that the payments made through the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) relating to Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) were "one of the key strategic labour market interventions in line of poverty relief for the most vulnerable sectors in the country and, had it not been for this intervention, the picture would be worse”.
“The strength of the recovery remains reliant on the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP), which calls on all social partners to work together and preserve the country economic development prospects,” he said.
However, he stressed that one of the most concerning areas was in the youth category, which remains the most vulnerable in the South African labour market.
For instance, 32.4% of the 10.2-million youth aged between 15 and 24 years were reported not to be in employment, education or training (NEET) in the first quarter of this year.
This compared with 29.6% being in the NEET grouping in the December 2020 quarter, while the NEET rate for females was higher than that of their male counterparts in both quarters.
A yearly comparison shows that the percentage of young persons aged 15 to 24 years who classified as NEET increased by 1.9 percentage points from 41.7% in quarter one of 2020 to 43.6% (out of 20.4-million) in quarter one of 2021.
Nxesi called for extensive plans to be put in place to help the youth, adding that, through the department’s labour activations programme (funded by the UIF), the department is seeing a lot of young people take up entrepreneurial work and thriving.
“This is where employment happens and as the department, we are supporting these enterprises,” he averred.
The DEL is also planning to launch a number of jobs centres, which are aimed mostly at the youth in the country. Additionally, through the Public Employment Services, the department has been involved in partnerships with a number of industries whereby it sources job opportunities.
“This is already working well in the Cape Winelands District and we have seen offtakes in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. We are also encouraged by the interest that more young people are showing in the Employment Services of South Africa,” the Minister said, encouraging youth to register on the system.
The findings of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey this week are indicative that the South African labour market is still struggling but on the path of recovery from an unprecedented result in the last quarter of 2020, Nxesi claimed, noting however that progress was still very slow.
The unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points, with a decrease in employment levels by 28 000 individuals between quarter four of 2020 and quarter one of 2021 registered. In other words, only 8 000 additional individuals were reported to be unemployed between quarter four of 2020 and quarter one 2021.
A year-on-year comparison change reflects an additional 172 000 individuals that were added in the basket of unemployed people in the country since March 2020.
“These main results are still indicating that the search for a better life is ongoing but that the cycle of high inequality, high unemployment and poverty is visible,” the Minister said.