Unemployment or better put joblessness as defined by Wikipedia is the situation of actively seeking employment, but not being currently employed. Thus, in this article, we’ll be writing in reference to the Causes of Unemployment in South Africa.

South Africa is a country in the South African part and it is one of the most progressive countries in continental Africa. It was colonized by the former British colony during the golden years of exploration in the middle ages. South Africa is one of the most vibrant regions in the continent of Africa where numerous cultural pots have been in the country to promote ethnic diversity in the area.

However, the country is now at risk of suffering from an increasing number of unemployed citizens. This is one of the most serious socio-economic challenges faced by the country in modern times. This article aims to discuss the Causes of Unemployment in South Africa.


It is said that there is no smoke without fire… this saying can be implied here as well that, there are events that bring about unemployment. When there is a high employment rate among the people of a nation, it promotes a spirit of dignity, achievement, independence, and innovation – it isn’t only about making or earning a form of income. In contrast to employment, unemployment in South Africa is associated with social troubles such as poverty, violence, a loss of morale, social degradation, crime, and political disengagement.

It is a puzzle and a question in the mouth of many asking why do we have high and persistent unemployment? Though I am not an expert here, some of the typical reasons that cause unemployment in South Africa, of which are:

Poor Educational Level

There is a generally poor education level which is a mismatch of too much-unskilled labor and insufficient skilled labor. This has been worsened by the growth in tertiary sectors of the economy at the expense of primary (particularly mining and agriculture) at a rate that is way faster than the country can be retrained.

Location and travel

The segregated group areas have led to a large section of the South African population living far away from their place of work. The transport fare is not cheap, a high minimum wage that potential employees will consider, including the significant cost of travel. What is the reason for traveling to work only to pay three-quarters of your wages in traveling expenses?

The vicious circle of poverty

Those that have not been unemployed for long are nearly unemployable reasons been that their skill becomes rusty and degrade their ability to perform effectively. (This is one of the major factors why periods of high cyclical unemployment can give rise to higher structural unemployment). This has been partly identified in terms of the need to employ workers, especially youths early on, even at subsidized wages, in order to give them the work experience and skills to become employable in the future.

It is more difficult as an unemployed to maintain a good average Living standard, health, and being presentable, making it harder for a prospective employer to hire you.

Second-order effects of skills shortages

Possessing the wrong skills makes also makes it difficult to gain employment. More so, having an overall shortfall of skilled labor in an economy can arguably reduce or limit the opportunities for employment of less-skilled labor. (If true, this has big implications for encouraging skilled immigration and the limitation of brain drain.)

Pride and self-value

Unemployed persons are often sidelined, looked down upon, or seen as lazy fellows just because they have nothing to do. To be unemployed must have less stigma attached to it when a quarter of the South African workforce is unemployed. The motivation to accept any work offer, any work at any going wage since any work is better preferred than no work at all and this may be weaker as a result. This is a type of “downwards sticky wages”.

The legacy of apartheid and poor education and training

Some research and work done before now show that the deliberate exclusion of black colored people from the educational system and also from skilled occupations under apartheid contributed to the high rates of unemployment we see in South Africa today. Insufficient education Insufficient as well as lack of productivity is costing people their jobs. Unemployment increases progressively with decreased educational levels; more so, the education system is not helping matter as it does not produce the skills for the labor market.

Labour demand-supply mismatch

This is a serious issue in South Africa and an appropriate solution is yet to be provided for it. Labour supply is affected due to the increase in the number of job seekers over the years. The has been a rise, an increase in the rate of entry of women –, especially African women. In addition, the South African population is a young population (high number of youths) – more people gain employment and enter the working age as compared to the number of jobs that is available in the labor market.

The effects of the 2008/2009 global recession

This is another reason pointed out to contribute to the cause of unemployment in South Africa. The heavy recession that occurs in 2008/2009 has a great effect on the South African economy. Many workers lost their jobs during the recession, the largest number of relieved workers was in manufacturing. This implies that companies could no longer afford to employ more people and had to retrench some of their staff thereby reducing the workforce, therefore contributing to the unemployment rate in South Africa.

Role of trade union federations in government

When there is a demand for a higher wage it may lead to a decline in new employment. There has been contention and argument erupting that the labor demands make the South African labor regime inflexible while others point to it as important to improve the quality of life through a living wage.

General lack of interest for entrepreneurship

Despite the milestone and strife of various government initiatives to enhance entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial activity in South Africa is still low. For instance, the number of young people involved in entrepreneurial activity remains surprisingly and extremely low at 6% of the total youth (between 18-34 years) population (according to DoC Tracker, 2014). Thus, contributing to the cause of unemployment in South Africa.

Read Also:


I believe you agree with me that unemployment does more harm than good in society. The above-listed cause breaks down when a particular country is far from full employment. If unemployment is high because of mismatched skills, lack of interest in entrepreneurship, Labour demand-supply mismatch, and so on, there are strong contentions and arguments to back up interim protection of industries and jobs provided there is a medium-term plan to make sure the right skills become available over time.

Unemployment portrays a breakdown in the assumptions underlying economic models and therefore those same economic models should be employed with caution when making policy recommendations. Removing and reducing unemployment totally or to its barest minimum in South Africa is a decades-long challenge.