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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More