subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now

The release of Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) last week provides a sense of both hope and despair. According to the report, the official unemployment rate has decreased by 0.3 of a percentage point compared with the previous quarter, with the latest figure now standing at 32.6%, from 32.9% in the first quarter of 2023.

These statistics account for the period April 1 to June 30. According to the report, 154, 000 more people found work in the second quarter, while the number of unemployed people decreased by 11,000.  

It is a sweet moment because SA holds the dubious honour of having the highest unemployment rate in the world amid stark inequality. Therefore, any movement of the needle in the right direction is a welcome development.  

It is bitter because women and youth continue to bear the brunt of unemployment and marginalisation. The QLFS report reveals that in the second quarter the labour force participation rate was highest among South Africans aged 35-44 (78.8%), while young people aged 15-24 had the lowest participation.

Even more worrying is that there were 2-million more men employed than women in SA. Though accounting for the previous quarter, the release of this survey takes place against the backdrop of Women’s Month in SA, and sadly confirms a long-prevailing status quo of gender inequality in our country which continues to dominate across sectors.  

Juxtaposed against a general lack of representation of women not only in employment but their voices, identities and perceptions, the revelations of the latest QLFS confirm a long-standing battle for the inclusion of women in leadership and decision-making processes, the failure of which results in their continued marginalisation.  

A recent report commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, From Outrage to Opportunity: How to Include The Missing Perspectives of Women of All Colours in News Leadership & Coverage, though mainly focused on media representation and participation of women, makes the connection between the missing perspectives of women in news leadership and coverage and the resultant general invisibility of their issues and identities in society.  

It makes the point that societal and institutional barriers are impeding the improvement of women’s representation and portrayal in news coverage, and that women face structural barriers in every society, especially in terms of their representation in sectors such as politics, economics and business. These further highlight that journalists report on what is happening in the world, and the majority of people involved in ongoing events are men and thus the news depiction becomes that of these leading figures.  

The outcome is that the news fails to cover sufficiently, or misses out altogether, the gaps in power, pay, safety, authority, confidence, health and age, whereby male-favouring biases in all societies and most organisations provide men with an unfair head start over women.  

From a media and general representation of women perspective, the report makes a number of recommendations, including a change in social norms, which extends to socioeconomic change, political change, technological change, and legal and regulatory change. It also speaks of a necessity to overhaul established professional networks and habits, which typically favour men (who are usually the most senior experts already on the books) and undertakes some original research.  

At a broader level, as society we need to have a more robust action-orientated conversation about how we reflect the voices, perceptions and participation of women across spheres of society, the media included.  

We at the Media Development & Diversity Agency have made it a point to encourage a broader participation of youth and women in our own offerings as we seek to promote the development and diversity of community and grassroots media. A case in point was the launch of two broadcast and two print projects we have supported in KwaZulu-Natal, which were officially unveiled during this month of August, all led and managed by women.   

We need to decode the stereotypes that come with certain roles and positions in society that ultimately result in certain biases, favouring one gender over the other. The convening of the Brics summit in SA next week should also be exploited to our maximum benefit so we can derive a full complement of insights and trade opportunities towards addressing and redressing the crisis of unemployment, especially as it affects women and the youth.  

Peter is acting CEO at the Media Development & Diversity Agency.  

subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.