Unemployed people queue for UIF payments. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Unemployed people queue for UIF payments. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The surge in unemployment to 27.2% in the second quarter from 26.7%, and the shedding of another 90,000 jobs, is a national emergency.

If an earthquake rocked SA, everyone would pull together. The president would address the nation and managing the crisis would become the top priority.

One has to wonder why the unemployment disaster hasn’t provoked the same kind of response. SA’s jobless rate has exceeded 20% since the early 1990s, rare for a country not at war or mired in a prolonged economic crisis.

But SA has come to accept that it is normal for six million people to be unemployed. It’s the price we pay for a dysfunctional education system and unnatural labour-market dynamics.

Where else would the electricity utility implement blackouts because its workers were vandalising power stations over unrealistic wage demands on the same day that such shocking unemployment figures were released?

How is it that 18,000 jobs were created in the bloated utilities sector while manufacturing, supposedly the economy’s engine, shed 105,000 jobs?

Higher unemployment means lower consumption, more unrest and increased reliance on social grants. Economic growth and fiscal consolidation just became that much harder to achieve, and the country’s future a little less secure.