Industry Updates

Slow progress in job creation, unemployment and inequality

30 Apr 2013

19 years after democracy South Africans still have to deal with slow progress in terms of job creation, unemployment and inequality.

The issues of slow job creation, unemployment and inequality have been targeted as areas of urgent focus in numerous speeches by government officials, including President Zuma.

The latest figures from the most robust and representative socio-political survey in South Africa – the Ipsos Pulse of the People – sheds some light on the long way South Africa still has to go in addressing these issues.

Less than four in every ten four adult South Africans (38%) are employed on either a full-time or a part-time basis and almost three in every ten (28%) are unemployed and looking for work:

In all surveys conducted since 1994 addressing these issues, unemployment and the slow process of job creation are mentioned as some of the biggest problems in South Africa.

It is also one of the 26 policy areas on which government delivery is measured on a six-monthly basis in the Government Performance Barometer, published by Ipsos.

The question asked is whether the government is doing very well, fairly well, not really well or not at all well on “reducing unemployment by creating jobs”.  In November 2012, only a third (33%) of adults in South Africa have indicated that the government is doing “very well” or “fairly well” in addressing this issue.

Although the supporters of the ruling party are prepared to give the government more credit for addressing this issue, it is still a relatively low score at 40%.  DA supporters display more criticism of the government’s performance in this area.

However, it is clear that this is not only a burning issue for those looking for work, as there is virtually no difference in the scores received from those South Africans who are working (34%) say the government is doing very or fairly well on this issue) and those not working (32% of this group say the government is doing very or fairly well on this issue).

Poverty is closely related to the issue of employment – and therefore the ability to earn money. Respondents are also asked to share their monthly total household income.  Since this is a sensitive question, almost four in every ten (39%) did not volunteer this information in the latest survey.   The average number of people per household who earn an income in South Africa is 1,64.

Although it is usually perceived that the more affluent do not want to disclose their incomes, if we compare the working status data of adult South Africans (see pie chart) with the working status data of this group (39% of adults) who did not disclose information about their household income, it is clear that those who are unemployed and looking for work are making up a third of the group who cannot or will not disclose income information.

We can also analyse the country’s employment status data by gender:

From the graph above it is clear that a large proportion of females (31% -almost a third) are unemployed and looking for work, whereas one in every four males (25%) are unemployed and looking for work. A smaller proportion of females than males are working and more importantly – receiving tertiary education.

The economic position of women is thus doubly compromised as fewer women have the ability to earn money and fewer women will get a tertiary education, which would enable them to get a well-paid position in future.

A few other issues about gender equality are also relevant:

  • just over half of South Africans think that progress has been made since 1994 in the area of women’s rights,
  • however a substantial proportion of more than a quarter (27%) believe that jobs should rather go to men than women and;
  • almost one in every five (18%) say that the right to education (guaranteed in the constitution) is a male prerogative.

Inequality also manifests itself on other levels, and it is also interesting to note that less than half of adult South Africans (44%) feel that the government is doing very or fairly well with the challenge of “narrowing the income gap between different race groups”.

Technical aspects
  • Fieldwork was carried out from 26 October – 7 December 2012 by trained and experienced fieldworkers
  • Face-to-face in-home interviews were conducted with a randomly chosen sample of 3560 South Africans, 15 years and older, in the language chosen by the respondent.
  • Results of South Africans of voting age (i.e. 18+) were filtered out – this press release is based on the views of possible voters
  • The results were weighted and projected to the universe.
  • The margin of error of the study is 1,67%

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