Unemployment escalates; why are men being employed more than women?

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The unemployment in South Africa has risen to a record-breaking 34.4% in the second quarter of 2021—according to Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS). 

The outcome of the QLFS was officially released by Statistician-General, Risenga Maluleke on Tuesday, 24 August 2021

According to Maluleke, the number of employed persons decreased by 54 000, reaching 14.9 million during the second quarter of 2021. Statistics South Africa elaborates further, stating the number of unemployed persons has increased by 584 000 to 7.8 million, compared to the first quarter of 2021.

During this period, the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 186 000 (5.9%), while the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 571 000 (4.5%) between the two quarters. This resulted in a net decrease of 386 000 in the not economically active population.

Maluleke says these changes increased the official unemployment rate by 1.8 percentage points from 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021 to 34.4% in the second quarter of 2021 – the highest since the start of the QLFS in 2008.

Adding to this, the formal sector employment in the three months decreased by 375 000 while the other sectors experienced increases in employment in quarter 2, 2021. Furthermore, the survey found that informal sector employment during this period increased by 184 000 (7.4%), private households by 67 000 (6.0%), and employment in agriculture increased by 69 000 (8.7%).

In the period under review, the survey found that some industries created jobs while others shed them between the two quarters. This resulted in a net decline of 54 000 in total.

Employment mainly increased in Construction (up by 143 000) and other industries that had job gains include Trade (108 000), Agriculture (69 000), Private households (67 000) and Transport (66 000). Job losses were observed in Finance (278 000), Community and Social Services (166 000) and Manufacturing (83 000).

Maluleke adds, “The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment increased by 1.2 percentage points to 34.4% in quarter 2, 2021, compared to quarter 1, 2021. The results indicate that the South African labour market is more favourable to men than it is to women.”

In fact, the survey found that men are more likely to be in paid employment than women, regardless of race.

The report found that the proportion of men in employment is higher than that of women; more men than women are participating in the labour market as men’s labour force participation rate is higher than that of women, and the unemployment rate among men is lower than among women.

“The rate of unemployment among women was 36.8% in the second quarter of 2021 compared to 32.4% among men according to the official definition of unemployment.”

According to the expanded definition, the rate of unemployment among women, at 48,7%, was 8,1 percentage points higher than among their male counterparts in the 2nd quarter of 2021.

Women accounted for 43,4% of total employment in the second quarter of 2021. Of those in managerial positions, 66,9% were men compared to 33,1% of women. Overall, close to a third (30,1%) of all people who had jobs in the second quarter of 2021 were employed in Elementary and Domestic work occupations. Women dominated the Domestic worker, Clerical and Technical occupations while the rest of the professions were dominated by men. Men occupied only 5,5% of Domestic worker jobs while only 11,9% of Craft and related trade jobs were occupied by women.

Therefore with the above in mind, Stats SA notes that in South Africa, gender discrimination remains a significant problem in various settings – be it social or economic – including the workplace, the family and educational institutions. “The country has made great progress in terms of promoting gender equality. South Africa has a dedicated ministry and legislation devoted to ensuring women’s equality. The National Development Plan (NDP) calls for Local Government to include more women at representative level, as well as in shaping budgetary priorities.”

However, Stats SA stresses that women are often marginalised in local politics and excluded from decision-making processes. “Women’s participation in integrated development planning is not smooth. The plan calls for the country to have sustained campaigns for non-racialism and gender equity, and advocates against gender violence. It also advocates for public employment to have a specific focus on women.”

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