Causes Of Unemployment In South Africa (2023)

It is important to take note of the causes of unemployment in South Africa, so as to develop policies that can help find lasting solutions. No country can be truly great when a large portion of its population is unemployed and living in poverty. It is therefore understandable why South Africa must make an immediate effort to curb the rising spate of unemployment so as to build the nation, and take it to its rightful place in the comity of nations.

South Africa has all the ingredients of a great nation; natural resources, a large population, human capital, a concerned government, and people that hold it accountable. The advantages that South Africa has are already quite evident in the economy; the currency is one of the best in the continent, and the level of infrastructural development in South Africa is quite high. South African businesses are some of the biggest in Africa; even dominating the markets of many countries on the continent. In terms of individual wealth; South Africa also ranks quite highly as well.

Causes Of Unemployment In South Africa

There is a great deal of optimism in South Africa; as the people look to each day with thoughts about possibilities will come. The problem however is that unemployment remains prevalent. To tackle it; the first point of interest has to be discovering its causes.

 1. Lack Of Education And Training

There is a pronounced lack of education and training among the young people in South Africa. History reminds us that during Apartheid there was a systematic deprivation of education and skill development among the black population. White Apartheid has been dismantled, and most of its associated influences have gone with it, the lack of quality and purposeful education remains in South African society; especially among the black community.

While students are taught all the basics they are not really taught the necessary skills that can make them self-sufficient, and that can help them establish businesses, and thus provide economic opportunities within their communities. These are some of the ways that the South African education system is failing young people.

Furthermore, secondary schools do not provide enough guidance and counseling; so as to help young ones make the best career decisions, and maximize their potential. Even worse is the fact that as soon as the students have graduated, they are practically abandoned by the school system; no guidance is provided whatsoever.

 2. No Equilibrium In Demand And Supply Of Labour

There is an overwhelming mismatch of the demand and supply of labour in South Africa. There are too many unemployed people compared to the number of jobs available, and therefore, even if all the available job positions are filled, there will still be enough unemployed people to cause concern. This may be attributed to a decline in several sectors of the economy, and also by the fact that some businesses now see South Africa as an unfriendly environment to do business.

 3. A Gradual Shift Towards Mechanization

Many sectors that formerly employed a high number of people in South Africa are gradually shifting towards mechanization; thus reducing the number of people they need to employ. A few classic examples of this are the agriculture and mining sectors; both of which traditionally employed a high number of people, but which now have machines doing many of the jobs.

The gradual shift towards mechanization is one of the major causes of unemployment in South Africa. It is worthy of mention that many employers embrace machinery instead of people because they believe that machinery will cost them less to operate and maintain than they would spend on salaries and other expenses that go with employing workers.

Many South African youth do not have the skills to operate these machines or to service and maintain them. This also creates several problems; including the reduction of productivity.

 4. Bad Attitude Towards Work

Many students in South Africa have adopted a bad attitude towards work because they do not want to start out their careers at the bottom, and then work their way up. Many are looking for attractive jobs, and do not want to work with their hands. Others have acquired a false sense of pride, and now believe that certain jobs are beneath them.

Furthermore, apprenticeship programmes which were once popular throughout the country have seen a rapid decline; many would rather wait for a white-collar job, rather than enhance their skills through apprenticeship, and then contribute to society by working and solving problems.

  5. A Lack Of Support For Entrepreneurs

In recent years; a lot of the discourse in public spaces in South Africa has been all about the big companies; and government institutions. This is a clear lack of interest in the issues affecting entrepreneurs. Abandoning Entrepreneurs is a bad idea, and can produce several ripple effects; including reducing employment and also the depth of skills available in the country.

This is because entrepreneurs work directly with the people; many of them produce or manufacture goods using direct labour services of the people located in the areas where their businesses are located.

Entrepreneurs often train and retrain the people who work with them; thereby increasing their skills and employability. Entrepreneurs also encourage young people to establish themselves in their value chains either as distributors or suppliers of their products; this way they can also provide jobs for other young people.

We can therefore say that the lack of support for entrepreneurs is one of the reasons why there is so much unemployment in South Africa.

  6. The Rise In Trade Unions

The rise in trade unions has been highlighted as a major reason for unemployment in South Africa because they have made the labour market unrealistically expensive. In the early days of trade unions; they helped the poor workers fight for living wages and other improved working conditions. However, their proliferation has made it unattractive to employ workers in South Africa because some employers are not able to meet their wage requirements.

This has had a ripple effect in the South African economy; some employers have had to reduce the number of workers on their payrolls- which has led to an increase in unemployment, and it has also caused some companies to take their establishments out of South Africa entirely.

Even at the research stage; while some companies are looking at the best locations to establish their factories, they may decide to use other places instead of South Africa because South African wages are quite high, and the trade unions are always asking for more.

 7. The Declining Global Economy

The recessions of 2008 and 2009 which shook the world were also felt in South Africa. The world economy is presently experiencing a decline; and consequently, there is a declining demand for several products around the world, including South African metals and agricultural produce. This reduced demand has also led to the rise in unemployment as several farms and production houses have been forced to reduce the number of employers on their payrolls.

Effects OF Unemployment In South Africa

One of the effects of unemployment in South Africa has been the rise of crime and insecurity. Things have been so bad in certain areas that they have virtually been taken over by gangs and as a result hard working and law abiding citizens have been forced to live those places for fear of the violence.

Due to the rampart unemployment we have seen a rise of welfare packages and payments to unemployed citizens. This is a good thing because these welfare packages have gone a long way towards helping the people survive in these hard times. Unfortunately, though many of the recipients of this government aid have become lax; they have become completely dependent on the charity of the government rather than look for jobs to help themselves.

Another effect of unemployment in South Africa is that it has caused government as well as non-profit organizations to work hard by going into the field to seek permanent ways of solving the unemployment crises. The government has had to partner with private bodies to set up skill acquisition centres across the country so as to help interested youth gain the skills that they can use to earn a living.

Possible Solutions To Unemployment In South Africa

Setting up more Skill Acquisition Centres to help people gain skills so that find work.

More vocational training during secondary school, so that young students can be prepared for life after school.

More guidance counseling even after graduation from secondary school. This will help young ones make good career choices.

Because many have become dependent on welfare payments from the government, the government must ensure that people who receive welfare packages are mandated to undergo training to help them find work.


Since one of the causes of unemployment in South Africa is the rapid adoption of machinery in production, one thing that can be done is the creation of policies that ban the use of certain kinds of machines; instead, businesses should be mandated to employ people to do the work. Furthermore, the government must make sure that recipients of unemployment aid undergo some form of training or skill acquisition so as not to make them permanently dependent on government aid.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *