Unemployment in South Africa

If you have been unemployed and thoughts like “when am I going to have a job?” “Surely, I am a good candidate”, “why aren’t companies choosing me?” have entered your mind an innumerable amount of times then this blog post is for you.

Being a recent graduate, unemployment has never been such a reality to me and my fellow class mates. Off hand, I know around 20 people within the year who have been unemployed and have experienced all the confusion that occurs during a job hunt.

Before, I discuss the aims of this post such as how one can increase their employability, what  South Africans can do while being unemployed and the positive and negative effects of unemployment in South Africa (S.A). I have learned from my lecturers that in order to solve a problem, one must first conceptualize the dilemma; therefore unemployment in its general definition means “a state in which an individual is regarded as unemployed if he or she did not work in the preceding week, wants to work and is available to start work within a week and has been searching for employment or self-employment in the previous four weeks.”
Another emphasis my lecturers spoke of was to highlight the problem using statistics generated as proof to create awareness in order to bring a solution to a mass problem. Unemployment, for instance, occurs among more than 50% of young South Africans between 15-24 year olds. According to statistics S.A, the unemployment rate has increased from 32, 7% to 36% between 2008 and 2014. Trading economics, suggests South Africa has one of highest unemployment rates of 25, 20%. Spain and Nigeria also have high unemployment rates however Greece has the highest unemployment rate compared to South Africa. On record however; S.A has the highest unemployment rate than any other country which is 31, 20%.
Having discussed the dilemma of unemployment in South Africa, I asked myself why there is such a high rate of unemployment in this beautiful nation. I researched various articles and gathered that unemployment is caused by a lack of education and skills, inter-generational cycles of poverty, low investment in African education, greater demand of skilled labourers, structural shifts and distance influences employability.  The department of labour however suggests that high unemployment stems from the lack of quality jobs, and the economy not creating enough jobs. As a former student I agree with all of the above reasons for high unemployment in South Africa however, through observation, I have learned that there may be another reason for high unemployment such as over qualified students who lack practical experience in their fields creating many knowledgeable human beings without applicable experience thus increasing unemployment.
Unemployment being high can easily have an effect on one’s mental and physical health. Research suggests that physical effects include headaches, stomach aches, and sleep problems, lack of energy, hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease. Psychological effects include increased hostility, depression, anxiety, stress, anger, fear, despair, loneliness and social isolation and decreased self-esteem. According to one theorist poorer psychological health reduced the speed of re-employment.

Therefore, one should follow these simple steps to increase their employability:

  • basic job hunting techniques which have been useful such as writing a concise CV,
  • a cover letter that highlights your skills, knowledge and abilities,
  • write a motivational letter highlighting the company’s strengths and your reasons for wanting a particular job,
  • Have a career portfolio showcasing your certificates, academic record, voluntary work with pictures, copies of your work for example, academic essays, thesis abstract etc.
  • Customise your CV and cover letter according to each job applied for, addressing your potential employer by full name if known instead of the generic “dear sir/mam”.
  • Use LinkedIn to build a professional network, phone companies instead of only sending out emails, apply to large companies even if you lack experience.
  • I have learnt that companies describe their ideal candidate under job descriptions or requirements however one should not be discouraged if all requirements are not met, candidates should apply anyway taking bold steps.
  • maximize your entrepreneurial strengths by considering turning your favourite hobby into a part of full time job, I know of many who have and have succeeded in doing what they love to do.
  • You can also create a professionalblog,
  • take free online courses which are usually international that highlights a different perspective on how other countries educate their students,
  • keep up to date with the latest information in your field,
  • job shadow to gain more knowledge and confidence in your field of work, whereby you can build contacts,
  • volunteer in order to gain new skills and add to your references,
  • Remember good references are important for a job, recruiters generally look for candidates that have more than a year of working experience within an organization and phone that referee to ensure the candidate is worthy and reliable.

Now that you have come to know why unemployment is high, the effects of unemployment and how you can increase your employability, you may want to know what else can you do while waiting for a job? You may ask yourself, is being unemployed really so negative? Well, it is not, actually being unemployed can help you in ways you would not expect, for instance it is a time to discover who you are, suddenly you’ll learn that you have all this free time which may make you feel frustrated but it could actually become an opportunity to create new hobbies, travel, make mistakes and learn from them, take risks! It is a time to cling to hope and believe that your studying has not been in vain, that eventually you will be employed because you are smart and will be an asset to any company, to gain wisdom about business and to know your worth, not to settle for anything less than what you love to do.

Overall, this discussion, has highlighted unemployment in South Africa, why it occurs in such a high manner, what effects it has, how to reach employability and what you can do while being unemployed, lastly, I’d like to leave you with this quote, ” everything seems impossible until it’s done” your mountain of unemployment is only the beginning, once you knock down this mountain, you will experience adventures that are inconceivable to a human mind.

Have a blessed and fun-filled journey.


Please note below are some of the articles i have read regarding Unemployment, please feel free to do some research of your own, i will add further links later.


  1. Why is unemployment high in S.A? http://voices.mckinseyonsociety.com/south-africa-unemployment-in-youth/
  2. Unemployed Youth in S.A. A distressed generation https://www.google.co.za/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCUQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hsrc.ac.za%2Fen%2Fresearch-outputs%2Fktreedoc%2F986&ei=1xiTVLXvL4i1UdL6gJgL&usg=AFQjCNHtJbE9rNfD1orcFVj0h5PFqzxSOg&bvm=bv.82001339,d.ZWU
  3. Unemployment in South Africa labour market 2013 http://www.labour.gov.za/DOL/downloads/documents/annual-reports/job-opportunities-and-unemployment-in-the-south-african-labour-market/2012/jobopporeport201112.pdf
  4. Why has unemployment occurred in a new South Africa? http://economics.mit.edu/files/2883
  5. Psychological Effects of Unemployment and Underemployment http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/socioeconomic/unemployment.aspx
  6. Defining Unemployment in Developing Countries: Evidence from Trinidad and Tobago http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/credit/documents/papers/01-09.pdf
  7. Surviving Unemployment without State Support: Unemployment and Household Formation in South Africa http://www.iza.org/conference_files/worldb2007/klasen_s146.pdf
  8. Lessons from Germany Http://Www.Numsa.Org.Za/Article/South-Africas-Youth-Unemployment-Crisis/
    9. The Impact of Unemployment on Individual Well-Being in the E.U. Http://Www.Enepri.Org/Files/Publications/Wp029.Pdf
  9. The Psychological Consequences of Unemployment in South Africa Http://Www.Scielo.Org.Za/Scielo.Php?Pid=S222234362012000300001&Script=Sci_Arttext
  10. The Positive & Negative Effects of Unemployment Http://Www.Ehow.Com/Info_8142793_Positive-Negative-Effects-Unemployment.Html

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