South Africa jobs employment
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  • South Africa’s employment levels rose in October, following mass job losses since the country endured hard lockdown from April 2020.
  • New data published by the National Income Dynamics Study, shows employment levels in October almost matched those in February, before the pandemic bit.
  • Educated young people, with at least matric, drove the employment recovery.
  • Agriculture, manufacturing, and trade all bounced back to beyond pre-pandemic levels.
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Employment in South Africa bounced back following a devastating period after hard lockdown in April 2020, a new study says, with the percentage of working-age adults in jobs having almost recovered to pre-pandemic levels by October.

Approximately 2.1 million additional jobs were recorded between June and October 2020, according to latest National Income Dynamics Study - Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) results. The third instalment of this survey, referred to as Wave 3, tracks data delivered by more than 6,000 respondent between 18 and 64 years old.

NIDS-CRAM focuses extensively on the socioeconomic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Income, employment, welfare, education, and gender inequality are primary themes it investigates.

The employment recovery detailed in Wave 3 – which uses pre-pandemic, February 2020 figures as a baseline – shows the ratio of employed respondents (not including those furloughed) was at 53% in October, compared to just 40% during Level 5 lockdown in April.

In February the number had been roughly the same, with 54% of respondents indicating that they were employed.  

Those numbers are due to be augmented soon, with Statistics SA due to release next week the results of its Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), which uses a larger sample size and will provide a more balanced view of the national situation.

NIDS-CRAM suggests that the labour market continues to be in an extreme state of flux, demonstrated by the comparisons between jobs lost due to lockdown and employment opportunities gained in the second half of 2020.

Those who found jobs were not necessarily those who had lost jobs; "of those who lost their jobs in April, only half were employed again by October, while about a third of those without employment in February were employed in October,” says the NIDS-CRAM Wave 3 report.

South Africa jobs employment

The recovery has been especially noticeable among young people with higher levels of education. Of the respondents aged between 18 and 24 with matric-level education, 42% reported that they had found employment by October 2020.

Similarly, young people who completed higher levels of education reported a slight increase in employment during the same period.

The results were opposite for younger people with anything less than a matric; they reported a slight decrease in employment.

The rate of employment for educated prime-age adults, between 25 and 40 years old, shared similar upward trends but to a lesser extent. Old adult respondents, classified as between 41 and 55 years, reported a marginal decrease in employment.

NIDS-CRAM has also highlighted certain industries which bounced back strongly by October, compared to their state in April. This sector overview is correlated by data supplied by the Statistics SA’s GDP data, which placed manufacturing, wholesale, and retail sales at or above February 2020 levels.

NIDS-CRAM lists sectors which performed better in October than they did in February as follows (listed from highest to lowest as a proportion of employment compared to February):

  • Agriculture
  • Manufacturing
  • Trade
  • Utilities
  • Communications service providers (CSPs)

Sectors which were listed as still underperforming include:

  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE)

“The employment recovery described here remains broadly the same after testing a number of alternative approaches to measuring employment, including using different definitions of employment that take account of different age categories or what counts as ‘employment’,” notes NIDS-CRAM.

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