Labor & Workforce

Unemployment soars in South Africa, worsened by Covid-19 crisis

By Nic Bothma

Cape Town, South Africa, Jun 25 (epa-efe).- Construction worker Mathew Bhodho is one of dozens of jobseekers who wait every day at a road junction in the South African port city of Cape Town, hoping to get one day of employment.

He has been coming to the same spot in search of work for more than two years. Sometimes he is hired for odd jobs, mostly doing plastering or flooring.

Bhodho tells epa-efe that about 200 people regularly wait in the same location hoping to find a job, and that this number has been increasing since the outbreak of the pandemic.

“Sometimes I find (a job) three days a week, two days a week,” he says. “Sometimes (I go) the whole week (with) no job, no work.”

The vast majority are unsuccessful and leave in the evening without having secured any work. Bhodho estimates that only between six and 15 people are hired each day.

Unemployment in Africa’s largest economy, already rampant due to a recession before the pandemic, has been worsened by the Covid-19 crisis, which has exacerbated the country’s economic troubles.

Strict lockdown measures imposed to help stop the spread of the disease have led to a drastic slowdown in economic activity, which has taken a particularly hard toll on day laborers who rely on informal employment to survive.

South Africa’s unemployment rate has reached a record high level of 30.1 percent, up from 29.1 percent in the final quarter of last year, according to a report released this week by Statistics.

The informal sector provides employment for approximately 30 percent of workers in the country, according to the World Bank, and has been one of the worst affected by the health crisis.

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