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

    Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora