In the year to March 2019 employment fell by 90,000 jobs, or 0.5%. Joblessness is not a new problem — since the 1980s SA has distinguished itself internationally for extraordinarily high unemployment. Still, since 2011 employment has only once before fallen over a full year (in the year to mid-2016). The downturn in employment follows five years of slowing job creation, pointing to the risks of complacency and conventionalism for SA’s economy. Both policy-makers and business have been quick to blame poor governance as the cause of all economic ills. But SA’s persistently high joblessness and recent slow growth point to deeper structural challenges, especially around mining dependence and long-standing inequalities in wealth, access to education, infrastructure and inconsistent urban planning. Quarterly employment figures need to be treated with caution. They are not seasonally adjusted and derive from large-scale surveys (covering 30,000 households). They necessarily are estimates ...

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