When it comes to SA and unemployment, even the good times have been bad. Just as the collapse of Lehman Brothers late in 2008 was starting to convert the financial crisis into a global emergency that would push much of the world, including SA, into recession, we were actually recording our best numbers. It may be hard to believe now that in the final quarter of 2008, SA recorded a record low unemployment rate. That was the good news. The terrible part was that even then we were talking about a jobless rate of just over 21%, a level that in most democracies would be enough to topple governments. At the height of the European debt crisis, the average joblessness rate among the countries sharing the euro rose to more than 12% by early 2013. As a consequence, countries with varying degrees of economic stress voted their leaders out, from France to Spain and Greece, the poster child of the crisis. In that wider global context, it shouldn’t have come as a big shock that our unemployment n...

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