South Africa’s unemployment rate jumped rose one percentage point to 30.1 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the final three months of 2019, official data showed Tuesday.
The new data is a far cry from what analysts expect to be the ultimate fallout from the coronavirus which has infected more than 100,000 people in Africa’s most developed economy.
The number of unemployed came to 7.1 million, with the formal sector shedding the most jobs, StatsSA said.
“Most industries experienced job losses in the first quarter of 2020, compared to the fourth quarter of 2019,” the statistics agency said, adding the finance sector lost 50,000 jobs.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday warned of mass job losses and “tough times” ahead as the continent’s most industrialised country braces for the economic fallout from its strict anti-coronavirus measures.
Ramaphosa imposed a strict lockdown on March 27 to try to limit the spread of COVID-19 and prepare hospitals for an expected surge in cases.
Although China is claiming success in its battle against the coronavirus, millions have lost their jobs in the economic fallout, throwing into jeopardy an ambitious target to eradicate poverty this year.
Beijing has been working to fire up the economy again after bringing it to a near standstill to curb the spread of COVID-19, but many firms have had a bumpy restart and workers are bearing the brunt of the pain.
Despite being a country of skyscrapers and high-tech innovations, China still has millions of people on meagre incomes.
About 5.5 million rural Chinese live in poverty, defined by the government as surviving on less than 2,300 yuan ($326) a year.
A slowing economy puts pressure on a key Communist Party goal to become a “moderately prosperous society” by the end of 2020, an ambition in place long before the virus emerged.
It also threatens a long-held tacit agreement between people and party that freedoms can be sacrificed in return for economic progress, an understanding that largely forms the basis of the authoritarian government’s legitimacy in the absence of elections.
China has little in the way of social security benefits and workers who lose their jobs have an inadequate safety net, meaning mass unemployment often brings a fear of unrest.
Official statistics show jobless numbers have soared, with roughly five million more people out of work between December and February.
Data firm Caixin said its services purchasing managers’ index, a key indicator of activity in the services sector, showed companies cut staff at the quickest pace on record in March.
Hu Fangdi, 23, lost her job as a saleswoman at an airport retail store two weeks ago and has had no luck finding a new role.
“No one was buying things during the outbreak and the company laid us off,” she told AFP.
Lily Han, who lost her sales job at a tech firm last month, said she needs a new job within two months just to make ends meet.
The 24-year-old has applied for over 300 positions but has come up empty handed.
– ‘Constant anxiety’ –
With much of the rest of the world still locked in all-consuming battles against the virus, the pandemic is expected to heavily weigh on demand for Chinese goods.
Analysts at financial services firm Nomura said the nation could lose around 18 million jobs in the export sector — nearly a third of the industry’s workforce.
This growing unemployment will be a major blow to consumption — a key driver of China’s growth, said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics.
Workers and businesses are beginning to feel the squeeze as cash flow dries up.
One worker in construction management surnamed Zhao, 28, told AFP his employer stopped paying salaries in February.
“I have housing and credit loans to pay… My family is now covering my housing loan and I work part-time to cover my daily expenses,” he said.
“I feel constant anxiety.”
Some businesses still can’t reopen amid lingering lockdowns.
Eric Liu, owner of Maomaochong Bar and Pizza in one of Beijing’s ageing hutong neighbourhoods, says business is paltry as the narrow alleyways remain sealed off.
Relying on his home delivery customers, sales are barely 10 percent of pre-virus levels and Liu has cut salaries.
Some firms have taken dramatic measures to stay solvent, including paying just a minimal living allowance.
And Beijing authorities have allowed companies to waive some social security payments, including contributions to pension, unemployment and work injury funds — measures that could further hit vulnerable workers.
– Slipping into poverty –
Job losses also raise the likelihood of laid-off migrant workers returning to poorer rural areas and slipping into poverty.
Liu Sihua, 49, a domestic worker, has been stranded in her village in eastern Anhui province since mid-January with no income or unemployment benefits.
“My landlord in Beijing refuses to allow outsiders to return after the virus scare,” she said.
“The family I was working for… went back to the Netherlands, and now I don’t know when they will come back since China has temporarily banned foreigners from entering.”
To compensate, authorities are easing stringent regulations governing the lives of rural migrants working in urban areas, allowing them greater access to the property market, healthcare and education in some smaller cities.
“Poverty eradication is harder to achieve given the current situation, which could not possibly have been foreseen,” said Zhao Litao of Singapore’s East Asian Institute.
Other analysts warn not to place too much weight on achieving artificial targets.
Wiping out extreme poverty could prove a “narrow” concept that distorts the real economic picture, said Kuijs, as local governments pursue all means possible to be seen meeting targets, sometimes at considerable cost.
The COVID-19 pandemic will significantly increase global unemployment, leaving up to 25 million more people out of work, and will dramatically slash workers’ incomes, the United Nations said Wednesday.
In a fresh study, the International Labour Organization warned that the economic and labour crisis sparked by the spread of the new coronavirus, which has now killed more than 8,000 people worldwide, will have “far-reaching impacts on labour market outcomes”.
“This is no longer only a global health crisis, it is also a major labour market and economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people,” ILO chief Guy Ryder said in a statement.
The UN agency’s study suggested the world should prepare to see a “significant rise in unemployment and underemployment in the wake of the virus.”
Presenting different scenarios depending on how quickly and with what level of coordination governments react, it found that even in the best-case scenario, 5.3 million more people will be pushed into unemployment by the crisis.
At the high-end meanwhile, 24.7 million more people will become jobless, on top of the 188 million registered as unemployed in 2019, the study found.
“By comparison, the 2008-9 global financial crisis increased global unemployment by 22 million,” the ILO said.
It warned that “underemployment is also expected to increase on a large scale, as the economic consequences of the virus outbreak translate into reductions in working hours and wages.”
– $3.4 trillion in lost income? –
Self-employment in developing countries, which often serves to cushion the impact of economic shifts, might not do so this time due to the severe restrictions being placed on the movement of people and goods.
Reductions in access to work will also mean “large income losses for workers,” ILO said.
“The study estimates these as being between $860 billion and $3.4 trillion by the end of 2020,” it said, warning that “this will translate into falls in consumption of goods and services, in turn affecting the prospects for businesses and economies.”
The number of people who live in poverty despite holding one or more jobs will also increase significantly, the study said, estimating that between 8.8 and 35 million more people will be added to the ranks of the working poor.
“The strain on incomes resulting from the decline in economic activity will devastate workers close to or below the poverty line,” it said.
The ILO called for urgent, large-scale and coordinated measures to protect workers in the workplace, stimulate the economy and employment and support jobs and income, including through social protections, paid leave and other subsidies.
The agency pointed out that some groups will be disproportionately impacted by the jobs crisis, including youth, older workers, women and migrants, in a way that could increase already soaring inequality.
“In 2008, the world presented a united front to address the consequences of the global financial crisis, and the worst was averted,” Ryder pointed out.
“We need that kind of leadership and resolve now.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned the rate of unemployment in the country, saying the All Progressives Congress (APC) has overstretched the limits of Nigerians.
It also accused the ruling party of trivialising and politicising the frightening level under it and warned the APC to get ready to face the consequences.
The main opposition party made the claims in a statement on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan.
“The PDP holds that for attempting to distort and muffle facts on unemployment, which are already in the public domain, the APC has confirmed that it remains an automated lying machine, which has never been interested in the welfare of Nigerians,” the PDP alleged in the statement.
It added, “It is imperative to also state that with its latest deportment, the APC has completed the trappings of a dying party and leaves no one in doubt that it has always been a power-grabbing special purpose vehicle, which has now come to the end of its journey.”
A Serious National Problem
The opposition party quoted the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, as saying in a publication that unemployment rate was at a frightening 23.1 per cent while raising alarm that the rate would likely hit 33.5 per cent in the new year.
It insisted that the number of unemployed persons and job losses across the formal and informal sectors had surge under the present administration.
The PDP added that Ngige, while declaring open a two-day workshop on unemployment, reportedly described the situation as scary.
“The APC also chose not to remember that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in an earlier report, stated that 16 million Nigerians (which has now risen to 18 million) were unemployed, 18 million more were underemployed while another 27.44 million, reportedly refused to work in 2016 for various reasons not unrelated to frustration in the polity under the APC administration.
“It is completely unpardonable that rather than accepting the truth and seeking for a solution to the looming unemployment Armageddon, the APC seeks to trivialise and politicise a serious national problem,” the PDP claimed.
It also accused the ruling party of justifying its wrongdoings and engaging in “under-the-table system of selective employment of a few”.
Among other allegations, the PDP asked the APC to “take responsibility for the mortgaging of our nation with the $83 billion debt accumulated by its administration”.
One of these is for the Federal, State and Local Governments to declare emergency on the provision of employment across the country.
The senators also called on the Federal Ministry of National Planning to put the necessary mechanism and programmes in place to achieve this.
They proposed the revitalisation of existing industries and urged the executive arm to initiate sustainable employment fund for the payment of stipends to unemployed Nigerians until such persons secure employment.
A Time Bomb
Earlier, Senator Ekweremadu brought the motion to the floor through reliance on Orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules.
He decried that high institutions of learning in the country produce a large number of graduates yearly without jobs, describing such a situation as a “time bomb waiting to explode”.
Citing a report published by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2019, Senator Ekweremadu stated that Nigeria’s unemployment rate stood at 23.1 per cent of the workforce in the third quarter of the year.
He also raised an alarm that the nation’s unemployment rate would hit 33.5 per cent by 2020 while quoting the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige.
“Any nation with such a number of unemployed but employable youths is only sitting on a keg of gun powder.
“The most pressing demand on the hand of every legislator and public officer is the rising number of curriculum vitae and application for employment from constituent Nigerians,” the lawmaker said.
He added, “A situation where every school graduate has to queue up for job only in government offices is an indication of the breakdown of private sector which is the major driver of world economies.”
Senator Ekweremadu stressed that unemployed Nigerian youths with potential talents “lying idle and wasting away are usually misdirected toward many unprofitable and harmful ventures and lifestyles”.
According to him, the most active percentage of Nigeria’s population has been forced to keep away from participating in the economic development of their fatherland and contributing toward the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by unemployment.
The lawmaker also attributed the high level of crime in any society to the high rate of unemployment.
He said, “Unemployment is one of the major causes of upsurge in rural-urban migration which put pressure on facilities at the urban centres.
“Unemployment is one of the major reasons why insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery, Cybercrimes and other vices are on the increase.”
In his contribution, Senator Istifanus Gyang described unemployment as a monster that could consume the nation if its people were not careful.
Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi, on his part, decried the inability of the private sector to address the escalating rate of unemployment in the country.
The government on the other hand, according to him, lacks the capacity to create jobs as doing so would create an expansion in its fiscal responsibility.
The Senate has resolved to tackle youth unemployment, poverty, and reform of the educational sector, among other challenges facing the country.
The lawmakers made the resolution on Thursday in the Red Chamber following the adoption of the Legislative Agenda for the Ninth Senate.
They vowed to channel their energy towards strengthening Basic and Technical Education by enhancing oversight on the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), to ensure the implementation of the provisions of the Act.
In his remarks, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, pledged that the upper chamber of the National Assembly would work to reduce the number of out-of-school children across the country.
“Today, the education sector suffers a lot,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his Special Assistant on Press, Ezrel Tabiowo.
The Senate President added, “The 11 million or 12 million children out of school – we owe them that responsibility to do something about them, and that is taking us back to the implementation of the Basic Education Act.
“How do we ensure that we reduce and eliminate the number of out-of-school children on our street? Whatever name we have to give that programme, we have to do something and government has to take responsibility.”
Senate President Lawan also noted that the government, at the federal and state levels, would have to create some funds to employ and train more teachers.
He gave assurance that the lawmakers, on their part, would work assiduously to implement its legislative agenda.
The Senate President said, “This legislative agenda is particularly ours. We represent the people, we know their feelings, and we imagine that the legislative perspectives we have here may be slightly different from the executive perspective.
“But at the same time, we are going to serve the same people, and that is where the need for us to come together and to reconcile our thinking on taking Nigeria to the next level will be.”
France’s unemployment rate dipped slightly in the second quarter to 8.5 per cent, its lowest level in a decade, the national statistics agency Insee said Wednesday, confirming a moderate downward trend begun in mid-2015.
On the French mainland, the rate fell 0.2 points compared with the first quarter to 8.2 per cent, or 2.4 million jobless.
The level stood at 8.5 per cent when French overseas territories were included, also down 0.2 points over the first three months of 2019 to the lowest level since 2009.
The fall in the number of jobless mirrors the situation in the wider eurozone, where unemployment fell to an 11-year low of 7.5 percent of May.
France, however, has long been one of the poorer performers among major EU economies.
Pro-business President Emmanuel Macron, like his socialist predecessor Francois Hollande, has made bringing down the country’s stubbornly high unemployment rate his top priority.
He has loosened the country’s labour laws, cut corporate taxes and pushed through a law requiring people to work for longer before claiming unemployment benefits in order to encourage hiring.
Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, believes acquiring entrepreneurship skillswill go a long way to address unemployment in the country.
He made the remark at the 17th Combined Convocation ceremony of the Federal Polytechnic Ado-Ekiti held on Saturday in Ekiti State.
Governor Ganduje spoke shortly after he was honoured at the event with an Award of Fellowship of the institution.
“With rising trends in unemployment predicaments in our society for both skilled and unskilled individuals, technical and vocational education provides the necessary remedy to this disturbing scenario of unemployability of graduates of tertiary institutions,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Abba Anwar.
The governor, therefore, urged polytechnics across the country to continue providing the leading steps towards entrepreneurship education for self-employment and job creation.
He highlighted some of the successes recorded by his administration in primary and post-primary education.
“For example, in our eight tertiary institutions of learning, we have over 279 programmes that are accredited by agencies responsible for such exercise.
“For instance, Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil, has 27 programmes; Yusuf Maitama Sule University, Kano has 32 programmes and Kano Polytechnic has 72 programmes,” Governor Ganduje added.
Others according to him are Audu Bako College of Agriculture, Dambatta – 27; Kano State College of Education and Preliminary Studies – 15 programmes; College of Arts and Remedial Studies, Tudun Wada has – 18; Aminu Kano College of Islamic and Legal Studies – 10 programmes; and Sa’Adatu Rimi College of Education, Kumbotso – 78, all accredited programmes.
In their remarks, the Chairman of the Governing Council and the Rector of the polytechnic, Austin Edeze and Dr Dayo Oladebeye, commended the governor for his commitment to the development of education in Kano.
They recalled the Governor Ganduje was a one-time Chairman of the institution’s Governing Council, saying the polytechnic witnessed tremendous academic excellence during his time.
Ganduje was accompanied by the Rector of Kano State Polytechnic, Professor Mukhtar Kurawa; and the Vice-Chancellor of the Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil, Professor Shehu Musa.
Others are the Provost of Kano College of Education and Preliminary Studies, Dr Sunusi Ahmad, and the Provost of Sa’adatu Rimi College of Education, Kumbotso, Dr Yahaya Isah Bunkure.
President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated his administration’s commitment to tackling the challenge of unemployment in the country.
The president who was represented by the former Deputy Governor of Kano State, Professor Hafiz Abubakar at the 4th convocation ceremony of the Federal University Dutsin-Ma, Katsina State, listed a number of programmes which he says his administration is doing to provide employment and consequently, alleviate poverty.
Some of such initiatives include the N-Power and Tradermoni programmes, as well as agriculture loans for youths and the signing of the NotTooYoungToRun Bill.
According to him, the signing of the bill would encourage youths to participate actively in politics and acquire leadership skills at a tender age, which he believes would potentially prolong their positive services to the country.
The President further stated that his administration is fully aware of the challenges confronting all sectors of the economy, especially education.
He noted that his government is doing everything possible to improve structures and facilities in Nigerian institutions and to provide maximum manpower and training through the various TETFUND intervention programmes.
They want the government to take other urgent measures to stimulate production and other economic activities to engage young Nigerians.
The senators also agreed that the government should increase the budgets to education by allocating and effectively implementing 26 per cent of the annual budget to the sector.
They recommended that this should begin from the next budget cycle in 2020 and enjoined state governments to do the same.
The Senate also urged the government to adopt the policy of annual recruitment of at least 100,000 personnel per year for all the security organs in the country.
These resolutions were made following a motion by Senator Chukwuka Utazi on bridging the gap between the haves and the have-not in Nigeria, to nip in the bud the seeds of a ‘looming violent revolution’.
In his contribution, Senator Shehu Sani noted that the motion was more of a wakeup call to the government regarding the provision it has made to address the problem of unemployment.
He added that the importance of the deliberation was not for the sake of the present but the future of the country.
Senator Babba Keita, on his part, called on the government to stand firm and put fundamental measures in place that would address the nation’s challenges.
Also speaking about the matter, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce believes the problems will only be resolved when Nigeria can get its actual population.
He questioned, “Does anybody care about the population control policy? How much do we spend on education? When these are put in place; with the right figure on the Nigerian population, then issues can be addressed adequately.”
In his contribution, Senator Yusuf Yusuf said, “In this country, the poor is subsidising the rich. Until we put a stop to this, the rich will never know peace. We need to have a change in attitude.”
For the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, there is a need for leaders to think outside the box to achieve “something more sustainable”.
“Today, we are leaders in this country, and we need to provide solutions to social economic issues. We need to ensure that all hands are on deck. We must provide a way out,” he said.
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said the issue of unemployment requires “very serious” attention and thanked the sponsor of the motion.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, thanked his colleagues for their contributions, particularly Senator Utazi for the very important motion.
“We must address issues of unemployment and begin to think out of the box on how to do that,” he said.
Senator Saraki added, “Again, it is not just a Federal Government responsibility, states and local governments also have a role to play and I hope that we continue to follow this up in our different committees and responsibilities too, because we all have a responsibility to oversee and ensure that these things we have talked about are implemented.”
According to the lawmaker, the policies are there and the Senate must play its role in ensuring that relevant agencies, from agriculture to the issue of job creation, social safety; are held accountable.
He also reiterated the need for the country to separate the maintenance of law and order from the issue of poverty.
The Senate President, “It cannot be an excuse that as a nation, no matter how bad it is, we must be able to maintain law and order and that is why it is important that we as parliament give all the support that is necessary to all the security agencies and all government policies on security to see that we maintain law and order.
“It is key and we must address it. Bills that need to be passed to strengthen whether it is the police, their responsibilities, their training, their resources or their budgets; it is also important that we must ensure that we can maintain law and order.”
Senator Saraki noted that those who responsible for maintaining law and order must also understand that there cannot be any excuses for not being able to function effectively.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr Chris Ngige says government programmes have so far created about eight million jobs through agriculture and vocational skills training.
He said that rice production has created new groups of millionaires in Nigeria.
The Minister, a guest on Channels TV Sunrise Daily on Wednesday, decried the responses given to blue collar jobs by youths in the country.
“We did food security arrangements, tackled agriculture. The government went into agriculture, started encouraging farmers.
“Government programmes have yielded a lot of fruits if you go to the Agric belts of Nigeria; Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Anambra, Enugu, Ogun, Kebbi states. Rice production created a new group of millionaires, the farmers.
And there is the backward integration of the rice mills, jute bag manufacturers and the rest of them all, a lot of jobs have been created numbering about 8 million now,” he added.
He said that the government had embarked on advocacy, promoting blue collar jobs.
“We did advocacy and told people not to look at white collar jobs, there are blue collar jobs, skills. You have to train your hands, you have to do plumbing, carpentry, tailoring.
“We have a mini in collaboration with the state government, we send people to the skills centre to train them and people come in there as an apprentice and after we finish with them, we empower them. But the problem is that how many people are ready to come here and train?
“The responses to the programmes are low, they regard those jobs as unbefitting to people’s status, but it is not true.”
Thousands of South African workers staged nationwide demonstrations on Wednesday to protest high unemployment and government policies that they say have failed to create jobs and are deepening poverty.
Workers dressed in red t-shirts, showing their loyalty to the trade union movement, gathered in the southeastern port city of Durban, Johannesburg and other locations for open-air rallies three months ahead of the country’s general election.
Companies in South Africa, notably in the mining sector, have shed tens of thousands of jobs in recent years in what unions have termed a “jobs bloodbath” as the economy of Africa’s most industrialised nation struggles for growth.
South Africa has a near-record 27 per cent unemployment rate, with trade unions saying 9.3 million employable people need jobs.
Zingiswa Losi, president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), led the main march in Durban, which was attended by about 6,000 people.
“Today’s march is a national strike and we are marching to (say to the) government and the private sector, we cannot afford to lose jobs in this country,” Losi told reporters at the start of the demonstration.
About 2,000 people attended the Johannesburg rally.
Official statistics released on Tuesday showed that the unemployment rate dropped marginally to 27.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2018 from 27.5 per cent in the previous quarter.
The drop was largely due to casual workers hired over the Christmas holiday period.
South Africa’s economy grew less than one per cent last year and is currently in the grip of its worst electricity cuts in years.
The continent’s largest energy utility Eskom, which has been plagued by debt and mismanagement, plunged the country into darkness this week with rotating black-outs imposed as demand outstripped supply.
COSATU has been a key ally of the ruling ANC party, which is seeking to revive its flagging popularity ahead of elections on May 8, when President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to retain power.