Tuesday, 10 May 2022 09:20

Stats SA under fire following concerns over unemployment statistics.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Statistics South Africa aims to improve its collection methods and response collection going forward after analysts raised concerns about the country's unemployment rate.

Speaking to eNCA, the statistics body's chief director of labour Malerato Mosiane said the group would not be reviewing its latest unemployment data and that it would not have published the data if it felt uncomfortable with the figures.

However, she noted that processes could be improved and that the response rate is expected to increase going forward which will improve the quality of the statistics.

Mosiane's comments come after the head of the statistics council David Everatt raised concerns that the poor response rate to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) could point to incorrect statistics.

Of the 30,000 households surveyed in the QLFS, the latest response rate hit a record low with only 44.6% of the households answering questions. The response rate was as low as 17.9% in areas like Johannesburg.

Everatt noted that the low response rate was primarily due to the replacement of face-to-face interviews with telephonic interviews due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

There is also growing evidence of a lack of trust between government and citizens, who had made it clear to field workers that they did not want to talk to Statistics South Africa staff, he said.

Senior economist at research group TIPS Neva Makgetla said the unemployment figures could ultimately be worse than reported.  He added that the numbers coming out of the QLFS have become 'difficult to believe', in the light of its divergence from South Africa's other employment survey the Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES).

Data published by Statistics South Africa on 29 March shows that the country’s official unemployment rate rose 0.4 percentage points to a record 35.3% in the fourth quarter of last year. However, the expanded definition of unemployment is currently sitting at 46.2%.

Analysts forecast that the country's jobless rate is now edging towards the 40% mark as the country is unable to absorb younger workers into the labour force.

Professional services firm PwC expects the narrowly defined unemployment rate to increase to 39.3% by 2030 from 35.3% at the end of last year.

"It is likely that, under this baseline scenario, South Africa will remain in the worst spot globally on both the total as well as youth unemployment rate tables for the foreseeable future.

"The solutions to South Africa's unemployment conundrum are not easy – but the time to act is now. We need to choose the areas that will have the biggest impact on GDP and jobs growth and where big change is possible without necessarily needing big financial commitments."