South Africa’s youth continues to bear the burden of unemployment.

Youth in South Africa continue to be disadvantaged in the labour market with an unemployment rate higher than the national average. According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2022, the unemployment rate was 63,9% for those aged 15-24 and 42,1% for those aged 25-34 years, while the current official national rate stands at 34,5%.

Although the graduate unemployment rate remains relatively low in South Africa compared to those of other educational levels, unemployment among the youth continues to be a burden, irrespective of educational attainment. Year-on-year, the unemployment rate among young graduates (aged 15-24 years) declined from 40,3% to 32,6%, while it increased by 6,9 percentage points to 22,4% for those aged 25-34 years in Q1: 2022.


As the country moves to celebrate National Youth Day and Youth Month under the theme: “The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke: Growing youth employment for an inclusive and transformed society”, the focus will be around various youth development and empowerment initiatives to support young people.

South Africa has over 10 million young people aged 15-24 years and, of these, only 2,5 million were in the labour force, either employed or unemployed. The largest share (7,7 million or 75,1 %) of this group of young people are those that are out of the labour force (i.e. inactive). The main reason for being inactive is discouragement, i.e. they have lost hope of finding a job that suits their skills or in the area they reside.

37,0% of this group were disengaged from the labour market in South Africa. These are regarded as youth not in employment, education or training (NEET). A large share of these (NEET) young people are discouraged.  There has been an increase in the NEET rate for both males and females. The gap, however, has decreased significantly between them year-on-year.


Participation in employment, education or training is important for youth to find employment and achieve self-sufficiency. High unemployment rates in a number of countries have hit youth hard. This has resulted in many young people being unable to find work or withdrawing from the labour market entirely, becoming “inactive”1. South African youth are no exception. While the 2022 South African National Budget includes R5,2 billion in tax relief to help support the economic recovery, including incentives for youth employment, issues of youth unemployment remain.

Of the 40,0 million working age population in Q1:2022, more than half (51,6%) were youth (15-34 years).

The current national absorption rate was recorded at 37,3% and remains lower for young people at 9% among those aged 15-24 years.

Q1:2022 saw the total employment increasing by 370 000 to 14,9 million compared to the previous quarter, while unemployment declined by 60 000 to 7,9 million, resulting in the official unemployment rate of 34,5%.

For more information on unemployment in South Africa, download the full report here.

[1] Youth and the labour market,