HomeAgri NewsUnemployment and agri-job losses continue to rage amid rising living costs

Unemployment and agri-job losses continue to rage amid rising living costs

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Over the past few weeks it has come to light that an indebted Eastern Cape mother committed familicide after the family had apparently been starving for weeks. This comes as at least a third of working age South Africans remain unemployed and budget cuts have stopped the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) from extending the employment contracts of 5 000 assistant agricultural practitioners (AAPs).

“All of this should send a serious message to the country’s leaders to root out corruption, improve roads, railways, governance of municipalities, and power supply,” says Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz’s chief economist. “These are all key to the vibrancy of businesses and, ultimately, job creation to deal with poverty.”

Agriculture as a job creator

Sihlobo said economists have been warning policy-makers for months that rising living costs and continued high unemployment levels were placing South Africans under tremendous pressure.

“The provinces most affected by this dilemma are the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. That is why Agbiz is continuously stressing the need to expand agricultural production in these provinces – for household consumption and for commercial production and subsequently job creation.”

Sihlobo said while the government’s unemployment grant has added pressure to the country’s fiscus, its purpose was clear given the current pressure on unemployed citizens.

While South Africa’s primary agricultural sector produces record volumes of food, it is not the sector’s responsibility to ensure that poor families have access to adequate food supplies. “This is a social development responsibility. The agricultural sector’s job is to produce food that is safe and affordable,” Sihlobo said.

Read more about the current situation regarding agricultural employment.

Unemployment levels remain sky high

Sihlobo said it is of great concern that South Africa’s unemployment rates remained unacceptably high. On 15 August, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) announced that South Africa’s official unemployment rate was at 32,6% for the second quarter of 2023.

Table 1: South African profile of those not in employment, education or training. (Source: Stats SA)

 Apr-Jun 2022 (1 000s)Jul-Sep 2022 (1 000s)Oct-Dec 2022 (1 000s)Jan-Mar 2023 (1 000s)Apr-Jun 2023 (1 000s)Quarter-to-quarter change (%)Year-on-year change (%)
Both sexes18 63618 38718 30418 51218 303-1,1%-1,8%
Women10 26910 27010 24210 35410 263-0,9%-0,1%
Men8 3688 1178 0628 1588 040-1,4%-3,9%
Age group (years)18 63618 38718 30418 51218 303-1,1%-1,8%
15-243 6513 5243 4403 6973 496-5,4%-4,2%
25-345 6495 5935 5465 5835 527-1,0%-2,2%
35-443 8743 7893 8053 8343 8460,3%-0,7%
45-542 7212 6952 7252 6802 7181,4%-0,1%
55-642 7422 7872 7882 7182 716-0,1%-0,9%
Population groups18 63618 38718 30418 51218 303-1,1%-1,8%
Black/African15 86515 76515 74516 03515 771-1,6%-0,6%
Coloured1 6351 5571 4871 4301 4632,3%10,5%
South Africa18 63618 38718 30418 51218 303-1,1%-1,8%
Western Cape1 9231 8591 7461 7201 678-2,4%-12,7%
Eastern Cape2 2962 2852 2532 2602 221-1,7%-3,3%
Northern Cape4204113973934042,7%-3,9%
Free State8438338058349088,8%7,7%
KwaZulu-Natal3 7483 6233 6543 7413 715-0,7%-0,9%
Northwest1 4051 4781 4381 5021 481-1,4%5,4%
Gauteng4 6994 5964 6824 6474 558-1,9%-3,0%
Mpumalanga1 4541 4091 4471 4871 470-1,2%1,1%
Limpopo1 8491 8941 8831 9281 870-3.0%1,1%

Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) indicates that the number of employed persons increased by 154 000 to 16,3 million in the second quarter of 2023 compared to the first quarter of 2023. However, the number of unemployed persons decreased by only 11 000 to 7,9 million during the same quarter.

The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition currently stands at 42,1% which is 0,3% lower than the previous quarter. The ‘expanded definition’ of unemployment in South Africa includes people between the ages of 15 and 64 who is without a job, willing and able to work, but not actively searching for a job.

The youth (15 to 34 years) remains a vulnerable sector of the labour market, with the second quarter of 2023 results indicating that the total number of unemployed youth decreased by 131 000 to 4,7 million while there was an increase of 105 000 in the number of employed youth to 5,7 million during the same period. This resulted in a decrease in youth unemployment rate by 1,1 percentage points to 45,3% for the second quarter of 2023.

Find out about agricultural training opportunities.

Thousands of agri-jobs perish

To further aggravate the situation, recent reports stated that the DALRRD decided not to extend the over 5 000 agricultural assistant practitioners’ contracts, which were in place between April 2023 and July 2023.

DALRRD spokesperson, Reggie Ngcobo, confirmed that the contracts were not being renewed, but denied that anybody was being retrenched. “These contracts were specified for a period of six months,” Ngcobo told AgriOrbit. “The contracts could not be extended due to budget constraints on the department’s compensation of employees budget as well as budget cuts across government.” – Susan Marais, Plaas Media

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