Key findings: Report-02-11-02 - Labour Market Dynamics in South Africa, 2020

The labour force which is made up of the working age population who are either employed or unemployed declined by 259 000 from 21,3 million in 2015 to 21,1 million in 2020. Growth in the working age population was significantly stronger than growth in the labour force in 2020 compared to 2015. This led to a decrease in the labour force participation rate of 5,4 percentage points, to 53,9% between 2015 and 2020.

The number of employed persons decreased by 679 000, from 15,7 million to 15,1 million in 2020, with ten industries contributing to this decrease. The largest decrease was recorded in Construction (241 000), Manufacturing (234 000), and Private households (129 000).  Finance and Transport were the only industries which recorded employment gains between 2015 and 2020 by 176 000 and 20 000 respectively.
Median monthly earnings of employees increased from R3 100 in 2015 to R4 000 in 2020. Gender, population group and age continue to be drivers of the earnings inequalities. In 2020, the highest median monthly earnings were recorded among employees in Mining (R10 000) and Utilities (R8 500) industries. Median job tenure increased from 44 months in 2015 to 49 months in 2020. The median job tenure for women and men increased to 51 and 48 months in 2020.

The number of employed persons decreased by 679 000, from 15,7 million to 15,1 million and the number of unemployed increased by 939 000 persons from 5,3 million to 6,3 million; this resulted in an increase in the unemployment rate by 4,1 percentage points from 25,3% in 2015 to 29,4% in 2020. In 2020, the absorption rate was 38,5% and the labour force participation rate of 54,6% was the lowest rate recorded since 2015. Young people remain vulnerable in the labour market relative to adults; with high unemployment rates and low absorption and low participation rates. The youth unemployment rate increased from 35,8% in 2015 to 42,1% in 2020, while the adult unemployment rate increased from 16,3% in 2015 to 20,2% in 2020. 

In 2020, approximately 93,0% of employed persons remained employed between quarter 3 and quarter 4, while 90,5% of the inactive population remained inactive in 2015 and 86,1% in 2020. The unemployment retention rates increased over the period from 67,5% in 2015 to 70,6% in 2020. The results from panel data indicated that the employed and the inactive population were more likely to retain their labour force status. During 2020, about 11,9% of the unemployed found employment between Q3 and Q4 while only 5,9% of those who were discouraged found employment during the same period.