News / Africa

    Employed South Africans Have High Number of Dependents

    A South African miner and his family sit outside their home in Marikana, September 9, 2012.
    A South African miner and his family sit outside their home in Marikana, September 9, 2012.
    The South African Institute on Race Relations says that for every employed South African, there are nearly three others who are dependent on them. While that number has dropped, it is still very high globally and speaks to the country's consistently high unemployment rate.

    A new study issued in mid-January finds that every employed South African supports 2.8 people - using the ratio of those with jobs to the total population.

    High rate of dependency

    Lucy Holborn, a research manager at the South African Institute for Race Relations that conducted the study, says this kind of dependency means the average salary has to stretch pretty far.

    "A good example of some of evidence we've had that supports this idea of dependency was in the aftermath of the Marikana massacre [shooting of striking miners in 2012]. We looked at the profiles of the men that were killed and some of the other men who were involved in the strike. Many of them talk about having five or six dependents, not only children, but wives, grandparents, extended family members," Holborn said. "Often in their case back in rural areas back in the Eastern Cape and other places."

    To give a comparison, Zambia has a ratio of 1 to 1.9, Liberia is at 2.5, Greece is at 1.9 and China is below one.

    Holborn says South Africa has one of the higher rates of dependency in the world. "It really demonstrates how serious our labor market issues are," she explained.

    And those market issues are at least twice as worse for black South Africans.  The institute says that if you look at the statistics by racial category, employed blacks here support 3.2 people, whereas whites with jobs carry only 1.4 dependents.

    Racial gap

    Holborn says the racial gaps can be attributed to education and social advantages.

    "On average, their education levels are higher, and have been historically for enough generations that things like, social capital, is much higher in the white population," she said. "So for instance a new graduate out of university in a white family may be more likely to have a relative who is working at a senior level in a company and is able to get work experience."

    Almost 20 years after racial segregation ended under apartheid, progress has been made in reducing dependency from 1997, when nearly 6 people relied on every employed person. The institute notes the main reasons for this drop are a decline in the country's fertility rate and a higher number of people in the workforce.

    But Holborn says that statistic, while hopeful, still does not address the underlying issue: chronic unemployment - which has been hovering at about 25 percent for the last decade.

    Education is key

    Holborn says that is mainly due to a dismal education system that does not prepare South Africans for the job market - even if they have the opportunity to learn.

    "First, we need to fix basic education. That will involve challenging teachers unions, looking at the quality of teaching," Holborn noted. "Then, also looking at higher education options, with a lot of emphasis on universities."

    Economist Mike Schussler agrees that the quality of education needs to improve - as well as policies to support that goal to really reduce unemployment and dependency.

    "There are people in the mining industry that earn well over 10,000 rand [$1,130 per month] that have no skills and qualifications and then at 14,000 rand [$1,585] is what our teachers earn. That's not a big enough difference for our teachers. Our biggest problem is the people who aren't earning anything. That is the problem, unemployment is the problem," Schussler stated. "Not the people who are earning money. The excluded are really the real poor."

    Focusing on unemployment

    Holborn agrees that the employed tend to be well represented by politicians and unions, while the unemployed have little political power and remain unable to change their lot.

    Schussler says it is past time for the government here to get serious.  “I think and I sincerely hope that the government will start realizing that this is very, very, big problem in more than just talk," he said. "But in action. "

    Otherwise, he says, no matter how much South Africa has achieved, there is no way as a country to feel proud with so many out of work and dependent.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.