The Daily Maverick recently produced a lengthy feature on youth unemployment in South Africa, which quoted extensively from the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS). NIDS is a project of the National Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation implemented by SALDRU. The article titled “Youth Unemployment in Focus: When you’re job-hunting so long that you’re no longer young”, was written by By Marelise van der Merwe, Aphiwe Ngalo and Rebecca Redelmeier. It quotes NIDS’ Samantha Richmond and refers to Saldrupians, Cecil Mlatsheni and Kim Ingle’s, research on youth unemployment.
Read an excerpt from the article
“Samantha Richmond, Senior Operations Manager at the National Income Dynamics Study, spoke to Daily Maverick. NIDS is the first national household panel study in South Africa, and has surveyed the lives of some 28,000 South Africans over the past two decades.
A “persistently high” unemployment rate applied nationally as well as among youth only, Richmond said, and South Africa’s unemployment rate was high compared to similar economies as well as regionally.
“We also have many discouraged work seekers and non-seekers,” she said.
The recent World Bank Report on Overcoming Poverty and Inequality in South Africa pointed to several factors in the labour market – and unemployment in particular – that had to be overcome. Race remained a factor in the ability to find a job, and once in a job there was wage inequality, with wages tending to be lower for black Africans in particular. Women also find it harder to get jobs, also true at the youth level, and once in a job they tend to earn less than men.
There is also a persistent structural mismatch for both skilled and unskilled workers, with a supply and demand challenge for unskilled workers on one hand, and employers struggling to find skilled labour due to problems in the education system.
There are access problems, with many prospective employees far away from employment opportunities in urban areas or not having the resources to get to interviews, dress for interviews, or contact prospective employers.
But the simplest answer is that the unemployment problem is multifaceted. It’s a beast with many heads, so cutting off one head at a time, so to speak – while arguably helpful in some areas – hasn’t killed it yet.
NIDS data has been used to inform further studies that can point towards solutions. Richmond cited a paper by Kim Ingle and Cecil Mlatsheni, titled The extent of churn in the South African youth labour market: Evidence from NIDS 2008-2015, which investigates persistent unemployment. By examining patterns of persistence of employment – and persistence of unemployment – it looks at who is affected, and why; and at the sectors where employment is more stable.
The authors tracked participants in the NIDS panel study, where possible, over a long period of time, who were young and unemployed. (In some cases, by the time the study concluded, they were no longer classified as youth.) And it came to some interesting conclusions.
First, it argues, employment is not stable in South Africa, and this is not solely down to economic conditions.
But there were other concerning patterns. NIDS is conducted in phases, known as “waves” (it is currently in wave 5). Just 31% of the study sample were employed in at least three of the first four waves, while 7% were unemployed in at least three of these waves. Some 42% were not economically active in at least two of these four waves.
Among those in the labour force in at least three waves, those who were older were more likely to have been employed in at least three waves, underlining the problem of youth unemployment.
Further, the study looked at employment and consistency across sectors. The most common sector for those in regular employment in 2008, waswholesale, retail and trade, followed by the community, social and personal services and manufacturing sectors. In terms of consistency, among those regularly employed in all four waves, people in community, social and personal services in 2008 were more likely to be employed within that same sector throughout (71%), making it more stable for employees; and wholesale and trade was similarly stable at over 70%. Those in the manufacturing sector were much more likely to have changed their sector of employment.
This echoes the findings of the World Bank study and, Richmond says, illustrates that it’s important to align skills development to a) where the jobs are and b) what the economy needs.
“The skills coming out of education are not necessarily what the economy most needs or aligned to the jobs that are available,” she says.
Read the full article on the Daily Maverick’s website.