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Unemployment in South Africa affects almost a third of the workforce

The unemployment rate in South Africa reached a record high of 32.5% of the workforce between October and December 2020, the government Statistics Office reported on Tuesday.

This is the highest level since the start of the statistical series in 2008.

Compared to the third quarter of 2020, the number of unemployed increased by 701,000, reaching 7.2 million, Stats SA reported in a statement.

It represents “a very significant increase of 1.7 percentage points in the official unemployment rate, to 32.5%,” he added.

South Africa, the most industrialized economy on the entire continent, was already in recession when the first wave of Covid-19 hit the country hard since last March.

Months of relentless restrictions to contain the virus have stifled economic activity and destroyed tens of thousands of jobs.

The office noted that the underlying unemployment benchmark, which is not included in the official rate, experienced a slight drop.

Another 235,000 people have been integrated into the category of so-called “discouraged job seekers”, that is, an increase of 8.7% between the third and fourth quarters of 2020.

But, the number of unemployed “for reasons other than discouragement” fell by 1.1 million, which is equivalent to 7.4%.

As a result of all these figures, the “expanded” unemployment rate, a category that includes people very discouraged from actively seeking employment, fell by half a percentage point between the two quarters, standing at 42.6% at the end of 2020.

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