State of the Gauteng labour market

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The graphs below give a snapshot, and a perspective over time, of the state of the labour market in Gauteng. Using data from Statistics South Africa’s Labour Force Survey (LFS), they provide both a province-wide perspective, and a breakdown by area into the three Gauteng metropolitan municipalities and non-metro areas of the province (unfortunately the LFS does not provide a view of each municipality).These are the first of a series of interactive graphs that GCRO will be putting up on this site on a monthly basis. They are interactive in a number of respects:

  • Mouse over the bars in the graph and the value of the data-point will be highlighted;
  • At the top left, click on the box marked ‘area’ and check which parts of the province you would like to view. It is possible to see just one area at a time, to compare two or three selected areas, or to see all areas at once (the default setting);
  • Click the box marked indicator to change which indicators you would like to view. The top graph has six indicators showing different aspects of the labour market; the bottom graph has three indicators with a time series for 2008-2011 for each one (the default indicator for the bottom graph is ‘Labour force participation rate’);
  • You can also click any of the bars and the data behind the data-point will appear in a pop-up box.

At a time when the world is talking about the prospects of a double-dip recession, and there is a deepening debate within South Africa around what can be done about unemployment rates that have not dropped below 20% for many years, even during the strong growth spurt in the mid 2000s, these graphs give a useful perspective on the state of the labour market in the country’s economic heartland.

To use one example: click on the unemployment rate (strict definition) indicator in the bottom graph, and see how Gauteng’s unemployment increased from 21,6% in mid 2008, just before the recession, to 28,2% in mid 2011. As can be seen on the top graph, unemployment on the expanded definition is even higher, at 31,1%. But notice that the effects of the recession have been unevenly felt across the province. In Johannesburg, unemployment rates are down in mid-2011 (26,1%) from where they were a year before (27%), even while labour force participation rates have increased slightly. The reverse is true in Ekurhuleni, where the unemployment rate has increased sharply over the last year to 35,2% (on the narrow definition!), even while the labour force participation rate fell by two percentage points (indicating more and more people of working age abandoning hope of finding jobs and dropping out of the labour market altogether).

This seems to confirm worries that South Africa’s manufacturing areas have been heavily scarred by the recession, exacerbating a long term trend of deindustrialisation. Compare this to what seems to be happening in city regions in other parts of the world, where some data suggests that older industrial regions are now recovering more strongly than regions built on tertiary sector economies.


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