The Primary Cause of Structural Unemployment in South Africa: Poor Education Standards and Policy

South Africa’s unemployment is a different creature from that in the US and in the developed world’s papers at the moment. We don’t have a cyclical lack of demand (although demand isn’t as robust as I’d like).  We have massive, unmanaged structural unemployment in large sectors of the economy.

I say “in large sectors of the economy” because it isn’t true to say that we have universal unemployment. In fact, a feature of structural unemployment is that it usually is not uniform throughout the economy (like cyclical unemployment often is).  I don’t know any actuaries or engineers who are unemployed for more than a brief period between jobs, and usually the jobs start and end back to back. There will be other examples too.

Unemployment is driven by education

Interesting that 75% of our unemployed are “unskilled”. (I heard this on the radio, so I don’t know that  the number is correct or it’s source, but it does map to my previous analysis based on census showing unemployment by education level attained.

  • The unemployment rate for those with less than “matric with university exemption” is between 30% and 40%.
  • Matric with university exemption unemployment is 23%
  • The unemployment rate for this with better than “matric with university exemption” is on average below 10%.
Supply and Demand for Labour
Supply and Demand for Labour

Economic growth isn’t the only solution to unemployment; in fact it’s not even necessarily a solution.  Prior periods of strong economic growth added jobs only very slowly. We have massive, structural unemployment in this country. We are making some of the right noises with our government’s new jobs plan and jobs fund.

Education in South Africa is not performing as needed

However, given the obvious relationship to education, why don’t we take the problems of our education system seriously? Continue reading “The Primary Cause of Structural Unemployment in South Africa: Poor Education Standards and Policy”