Employment and unemployment levels higher

20 August 2007 | Story by Newsroom

Research by UCT academic Martin Wittenberg has shown that an increase in unemployment has been one result of democracy.

Working under the auspices of Economic Research Southern Africa (ERSA), Wittenberg says the freeing up of local labour market conditions and the improved quality of education have made black South Africans more employable. In official statistics this is reflected in a modest pick-up in employment levels since 1995.

Ironically, since improved labour market conditions have encouraged more people to seek work, there has also been an increase in the number of unemployed South Africans in this period.

The official definition of unemployment measures the number of people who are willing and able to work, but who cannot find employment. Improved education and better prospects of finding work are drawing greater numbers into the realm of those willing and able to work; hence the rise in measured unemployment.

Wittenberg suggests that the lifting of all restrictions to job access might have released a pent-up demand for participation in the labour market that only became evident with the demise of apartheid.

'As more people join the labour force, competition for jobs will become heightened, unless overall economic demand increases even more.'

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