Despite a recent spate of bad economic
news, the latest unemployment rate for South Africa has actually declined. The
Labor Force Survey reports a drop from 23.2 percent in the third quarter of
2008 to 21.9 percent in the fourth quarter. The improvement is largely due to
an increase in construction industry jobs.
reporter Delia Robertson, in Johannesburg, says, "It
seems to have been a surprise. And I think not a surprise that the rate has
come down, but to the extent to which it apparently has come down and the
timing, given the current economic climate. South Africa's GDP (Gross Domestic
Product) decreased for the first time in over a decade in the last quarter of
2008. And so I think a lot of people were expecting the jobless rate to
increase rather than decrease," she says.
With the April national elections
approaching, is this good news for the ruling ANC party and bad news for
opposition parties? Robertson says, "I'm not sure that the impact will be that
great. I'm sure the parties will try and make use of these statistics. But for
a lot of people whose lives haven't changed under ANC rule, these statistics
are pretty meaningless. And there is a fair amount of resentment toward the ANC
because of the slow pace of change. Although, I suppose if one was going to be
completely fair, you could say that in 15 years the ANC has done quite a lot.
But one thing they haven't done…is reduce unemployment at the rate people would
like to see it reduced."
whether the improvement is due to construction jobs related to building for the
2010 World Cup, the VOA reporter says, "What we might be seeing is…one of the
effects of job creation reaching a critical mass, where creation of jobs is
very, very slow and very, very incremental and then all of a sudden it starts
picking up. I don't think it's directly related to 2010 construction because
most of 2010 construction is nearing its end already. Most of the stadia will
be completed in the coming months…. That, I think, has already been factored
Robertson says, however, that there
could be another downturn in the jobless rate. "Up until certainly the end of
last year, the construction industry has been busier just because of a
consequence of this very slow and incremental build-up in the economy. And it
started to make an effect. Given the current economic circumstances, though,
and the downturn in the global economy and the downturn in South Africa's
economy…what we might see is a reversion to an increase in jobless numbers."