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Ramaphosa puffs up jobs numbers in final stretch to South Africa’s elections

This article is more than 4 years old

As South Africa’s political parties make a final push for votes ahead of the 8 May 2019 polls, ruling party leader Cyril Ramaphosa has zeroed in on job creation.

“#FactoftheDay: Over the past 5 years, 1.5 million new jobs were created in South Africa, bringing the total number of people employed to 16.5 million,” Ramaphosa tweeted on 1 May. He heads the African National Congress (ANC), which has been in power since 1994.

Several readers asked us to check his numbers.

Claim off by 180,000 jobs

Statistics South Africa, the country’s official data agency, regularly publishes data on the labour market. The most recent is the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for October to December 2018.

In that period some 16.5 million people were employed in South Africa – the number given by Ramaphosa.

Five years earlier, in the fourth quarter of 2013, 15.18 million were employed.

This is a difference of 1.32 million. It’s 180,000 jobs short of Ramaphosa’s figure, making his claim somewhat padded.

Unemployment rate has risen in five years

But it’s possible for absolute employment numbers to increase, even as unemployment numbers and even unemployment rates rise at the same time.

To account for this, experts have told Africa Check, employment ratios should also be considered. These ratios take into account population changes: a larger population means a larger labour force.

In this approach, the numbers look less rosy.

In the last quarter of 2013, the official unemployment rate was 24.1%. This is the share of adults who were without work but were available to work and had taken steps to find work.

In the last quarter of 2018, the unemployment rate was higher, at 27.1%.

Not a new claim by ruling party

It is a familiar interpretation by the ANC. In January 2018 we fact-checked a similar claim that the number of employed people had risen from 8.9 million in 1994 to 16 million.

In absolute numbers this wasn’t too controversial, but the unemployment rate also rose 5.7 percentage points, from 22% in 1994 to 27.7%.

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