This article examines an issue that is currently of particular importance in South Africa.
The South African Government has just allocated R9 billion to address unemployment.
A number of policies address unemployment in South Africa since the transition
to democracy in 1994. Notwithstanding these policies, unemployment has about
doubled since 1994. The challenge that all these policies should consider is how to
define unemployment. The unemployment data is crucial in an effort to design a
proper unemployment policy. It seems that unemployment is much higher for younger
workers than older workers. Getting the first job, especially in the formal sector, is quite
difficult for most young South Africans. This article will therefore focus on aspects like
the reasons for the increase in unemployment, the role of labour legislation, the impact
of the South Africa’s labour policies and towards the end some policy suggestions. The
analysis of unemployment is mainly based on household surveys from 1995 to 2010.
The article argues that if unemployment is to be addressed, it is crucial to realise that
policies should focus on job-creation in South Africa. A concern should also be the
interests of the unemployed and the informally employed poor who are largely beyond
the reach of the labour institutions. The lack of appropriate data on the informally
employed complicates the policy-making process. In conclusion, the article appreciates
unemployment policies and programmes, like public works programmes and skills
training against the background of a lack of local evidence. The question is really where
future employment will be generated. In this instance sectors like trade, finance and
tourism should be high on the list. It is critical to realise that substantial improvements
in policies are needed to address unemployment.