South Africa: Unemployment Figures, by year
YearNumber of people,
in thousands
20237,339
20227,238
20216,954
20205,676
20196,244
20185,800
20175,713
20165,532
20155,143
20144,850
20134,649
  • Region: South Africa
  • Time period: 2012 to 2023
  • Published: Mar 2024

Data Analysis and Insights

Updated: Apr 2, 2024 | Published by: Statistico

Unemployment Growth from 2013 to 2023

Between 2013 and 2023, South Africa's unemployment figures soared from 4,649,000 to 7,339,000 individuals, marking a staggering increase of 2,690,000 unemployed people or a growth of approximately 57.9% over the decade. This trend reflects a persistent rise in unemployment, with the most significant jump observed between 2019 and 2020, suggesting external factors, potentially the COVID-19 pandemic, had a profound impact on the job market.

COVID-19 Impact on Unemployment

The period between 2019 and 2020 witnessed an unprecedented spike in unemployment, with the numbers leaping from 6,244,000 to 5,676,000, an increase of 432,000 unemployed people in just one year. This surge aligns with the global economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting its significant impact on South Africa's labor market.

Consistent Unemployment Increase Post-2015

From 2015 onwards, every subsequent year saw a consistent rise in the number of unemployed individuals. Starting from 5,143,000 in 2015, the number escalated every year, reaching 7,339,000 by 2023. This trend indicates a deepening unemployment crisis, with the economy failing to create sufficient jobs to keep pace with the growth in the labor force.

Analysis of Yearly Unemployment Growth Rates

Yearly unemployment growth rates have varied significantly, with the highest rate observed between 2019 and 2020. Calculating the specific annual growth rates reveals insights into the fluctuations in South Africa's job market, potentially uncovering years with economic challenges or labor market reforms.

2018-2019 Minimal Growth Suggests Brief Stability

A relatively small increase in unemployment was noted between 2018 and 2019, with the numbers rising from 5,800,000 to 6,244,000, an increment of 444,000. This period may indicate a momentary phase of stability or a slower rate of job losses compared to other years, offering a brief respite in the otherwise upward trend of unemployment figures.

Decade-long Overview of Unemployment Trends

Over the last decade, the unemployment trend in South Africa has illustrated a clear and consistent upward trajectory. Analyzing the annual data points, it is evident that the labor market has faced continuous challenges, with the number of unemployed individuals increasing year after year, barring no reversals or significant improvements in employment rates.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much has unemployment increased in South Africa from 2013 to 2023?

Between 2013 and 2023, unemployment in South Africa increased by approximately 57.9%, from 4,649,000 to 7,339,000 individuals.

Terms and Definitions

The unemployment rate is a measure of the prevalence of unemployment. It is calculated by expressing the number of unemployed individuals as a percentage of the total labor force. This figure serves as a key indicator of economic health.

The labor force refers to all the individuals in a specific area who are capable of working and are either employed or actively seeking employment. It encompasses all persons aged 16 and older who contribute to the production of goods and services.

Underemployment is a state where individuals are working below their capacity, meaning they are either working fewer hours than they would prefer, or their jobs do not make full use of their skills and abilities. This is also considered a form of joblessness.

Seasonal unemployment occurs when individuals are unemployed at certain times of the year, because they work in industries where they are not needed all year round. This is common in industries such as agriculture, tourism, and retail businesses.

Structural unemployment happens when a labor market is unable to provide jobs for everyone who wants one because there is a mismatch between the skills of the unemployed workers and the skills needed for the current job opportunities.
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