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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid