Second to a war zone

By Tessa Trafford

Pic by: Simone Armer

South Africa, it has been revealed, has the third highest unemployment rate in the world. The two countries who have higher unemployment rates are West Bank Gaza and Macedonia, both of which are currently war zones.

According to the most recently released statistics, South Africa has an unemployment rate of a shocking 23.5%. Added to this is the horrifying revelation that South Africa has approximately 1.2% of the world’s labour force, but makes up for about 5.3% of unemployed people in the world. These statistics were revealed in a survey conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The ILO makes up a specialised agency in the United Nations (UN) and recently set out to survey 73 countries and their unemployment rates. Mike Schussler, a prominent economist, called these latest statistics “shocking” adding, “We have been over a 20% unemployment [rate] for 12 years.”


Yet, at the end of 2008, officials were celebrating the fact that South Africa’s unemployment rate was the lowest it has been since 2001. At the end of 2008, South Africa’s official unemployment rate was 21.9%. According to some sources, this decrease would be a mere drop in the ocean.

When compared to other global unemployment rates, there seems little reason to celebrate. England has an unemployment rate of 6.7% and the USA has an unemployment rate of 8.5%. These two countries have arguably been hit hardest by the current economic crisis, yet they have unemployment rates that are almost 15% lower than that of South Africa.

Although these statistics are shocking, it should be taken into consideration that the world is facing a global economic recession. With companies restructuring and streamlining, more and more people are joining the ranks of the unemployed. Added to this is the influx of refugees from countries such as Zimbabwe who are also seeking work.

It should come as no surprise when all these factors are taken into consideration that South Africa has a high unemployment rate. Unemployment was certainly one of the major issues taken into consideration during recent election campaigning. The Trade Union Federation commented on the challenges that lie ahead, saying, “The incoming ANC government has the daunting task of realising its election promise of creating decent work for all in a climate where the economy is shedding employment at a frightening pace.”

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