South Africa

Best and worst areas for unemployment in South Africa

South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to its highest level in a year in the first three months of 2024, climbing to 32.9% from 32.1% in the previous quarter. 

The country has long struggled with unemployment due to weak economic growth and a lack of adequately skilled individuals. 

This has been compounded by the growth in South Africa’s working-age population, with the economy unable to absorb a growing number of job seekers. 

Stats SA, which compiles South Africa’s employment statistics, raised this reason once again in its release of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2024. 

The survey revealed the country’s unemployment rate had expanded after declining to 32.1% at the end of last year. 

Unemployment, according to the expanded definition, grew to 41.9%. This definition includes people available for work but not looking for a job. 

Most jobs were shed in the construction industry and community and social services sectors. 

Stats SA also said that weak consumer demand, frequent power cuts and logistics constraints have taken a toll on the country’s economy. 

Best and worst places for unemployment

Stats SA’s report also details each province’s unemployment rate, showing that one province stands out as the best place for job seekers. 

The unemployment rate increased across all provinces, with Limpopo seeing the biggest rise in unemployment across the first three months of 2024. 

KwaZulu Natal (KZN) and Gauteng experienced the lowest increases at 0.4% each. 

The Western Cape remained the province with the lowest unemployment rate at 21.4% – far below the country’s 32.9%. 

The Northern Cape is a distant second, with an unemployment rate of 28.3%, followed by KZN, with 29.9%. 

The province with the worst unemployment rate is the Eastern Cape, with 42.4% of its working-age population unemployed. 

It is followed by the North West province and the Free State, which have unemployment rates of 40.5% and 38%, respectively. 

When using the expanded definition, the North West has the worst unemployment rate at 53.6%. This means that more than half of the province’s working-age individuals are unemployed. 

The breakdown of the unemployment rate of each province is shown in the graph below. 

One of the biggest determinants of unemployment in South Africa is education, and further education greatly increases one’s chances of finding a job. 

A tertiary education, especially a degree, significantly enhances one’s likelihood of securing employment. 

In the first quarter of 2024, individuals with less than a matric recorded an unemployment rate of 39.1% (up by 0.5 of a percentage point), while graduates had a rate of 11.8% (up by 2.3 percentage points).

Unemployment rates for those with matric or lower educational qualifications exceeded the national rate, whereas individuals with other tertiary qualifications and graduates had rates below the national average. 

However, university graduates are not immune to the effects of the country’s weak economic growth. 

Year-on-year comparisons indicated that the unemployment rate increased among graduates and those with education levels below matric, while the rate decreased for other tertiary and matric.

The different unemployment rates depending on an individual’s education level are shown in the graphs below. 


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