Employment Form Employment Form Photo Credit: Lauren Uppink (2012)

 At least six out of every ten first time employment seekers will not get employed.  And waiting for the situation to change, or hoping for you to be the lucky one, or jobs to be created is not the answer.  You will have to create your own opportunity.

Early last year the youth unemployment rate was 59% (1), the highest rate in over 16 years (2).  That means almost six out of every ten people between the ages of 18-34 were unemployed.  BusinessTech reported "Matric class of 2019 will struggle to find jobs" (2).  They reported that the "majority (81%) of employers said that they do not see any growth in employment over the period, while 8% said they are contemplating a decrease in employment."

And this was before the State of Emergency due to COVID-19 and the negative economic effect of the 2020 lockdown.  Since then, an additional 2,2 million jobs were lost only in the second quarter of 2020 alone (3).  Statistics SA also reported in September last year, that the unemployment rate dropped, but this has to do with the way unemployment is calculated.  If you are not actively seeking employment, you are considered a "discouraged work seeker", not unemployed.  So the drop in the unemployment rate was not due to more people being employed, but rather reflected the large amount that did not even bother to look for work, given the poor economic outlook and the low employment rate at the time.   By the end of 2020, existing debt, lack of cash reserves, outdated financials, no access to relief funding, and an inability to operate during the lockdown, forced the closure of 42.7% of small businesses (4).  Of the remaining businesses, only 32%, however, believe that they will be able to create new jobs – a significant alarm bell during an unprecedented unemployment crisis (4).

I am not sharing this economic outlook with you to discourage you.  I am doing it to encourage you to act, because you cannot afford to wait for the economy and the job market to improve.

Many years ago, I travelled to Zambia and what I noticed intrigued me, because their economy was so different to what I was used to.

I noticed tremendous enterprise of the people in Zambia.  I met people who were fishermen and ones that made charcoal, just to name two.  The did not do these as side hustles, that were their occupations and they were proud of their jobs.  They provided valuable services and they have worked at their enterprises for many years.  To them, it was not something they did to earn a living, while being "unemployed".  I admired their pride and I, thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and visiting with them.  They proudly showed me some of their shops and introduced me to the entrepreneurs that ran them. 

Zambia is not a poor nation; they have copper mines and although there was far less wealth on display, I did not see poverty either.  When I enquired about how their economy works, I learned that only a very low percentage of the population was formally employed.  If I recall correctly, I was told that only about 4% of the population enjoyed corporate employment.  This low percentage changes the dynamic of the economy significantly and with it, people's expectation of being formally employed.   No-one can expect (or wait) to get employed, so, they look to themselves for a way to earn a living within their community or "the economy".

At present, you, as a first job seeker, must look at your options differently.  You face an economy with probably the lowest chance of employment in a very long time.  I say probably, because the statistics that I quoted, are the most recent ones available, but they do not describe the current situation. 

If you have not done so already, your best option is to qualify yourself further.  Stats SA has shown that across all age groups your chances of getting or remaining employed improves significantly with higher qualification (5). 

If you are a first-time job seeker, you have probably found several on-line portals to assist you in your quest.  Remember to also look for internships or learnerships; this way you will have to opportunity to receive training while you receive an income and even more importantly, you will have an opportunity to prove yourself as a person worth employing – most of these programmes end with on opportunity for employment.   As a job seeker, you will need to be both diligent and patient.  You may be lucky and get an offer shortly, but for many of you will take some time.  It is important to see yourself as having a job – the job of getting employed.  Do not become a "discouraged work seeker" and, therefore, not even counted as "unemployed"!

You may, however, must consider that, like those Zambian entrepreneurs that I met, your only option out of your current situation is to create your own opportunity.  Although the Government is running several programmes for job creation, it will take time – time you cannot afford.  Fortunately, they also run several programs to help entrepreneurs start their own businesses.  These programmes include education, incentives, grants, etc.  A simple web search will give you a lot of information about these schemes.

It may be time for you to start your own business!

Additional Info

  • References:
    1 Trading Economics. South Africa Youth Unemployment Rate (2013-2020 Data | 2021-2023 Forecast). Trading Economics. [Online] 2020. [Cited: 01 18, 2021.]
    2 BusinessTech. Matric class of 2019 will struggle to find jobs. BusinessTech. [Online] January 8, 2020. [Cited: January 18, 2021.]
    3 Statistics SA. SA economy sheds 2,2 million jobs in Q2 but unemployment levels drop. Stats SA. [Online] Department: Statistics South Africa, Republic of South Africa, September 29, 2020. [Cited: January 18, 2021.]
    4 BusinessTech. Lockdown forced nearly half of small businesses in South Africa to close: study. BusinessTech. [Online] Finfind, December 7, 2020. [Cited: January 19, 2021.]
    5 BusinessTech. How having a degree vs a matric affects your job prospects in South Africa right now. BusinessTech. [Online] May 16, 2019. [Cited: January 18, 2021.]
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Geordie van der Nest

Geordie van der Nest is a Certified Executive, Career and Life Coach.

He is the Registrar of Management Consultants  at the Institute for Management Consultants and Master Coaches of South Africa, Program Director at OpenCircle (for Real Business Achievement) and Managing Director and Principal Life Coach at Heads-up Life.

He is an Accredited Executive Associate of the Institute for Independent Business International (IIBI), a Certified Management Consultant by the Institute for Management Consultants and Master Coaches of South Africa (IMCSA) and a Certified 7 Stage Business Advisor (C7C).  He is a certified Professional Life Coach, Master Coach and a Career Coach.

Geordie has 12 years' experience as an Executive and 15 years as an Executive Coach and Business Advisor.  

He worked in several types of businesses, in various industries, from start-ups to global corporations.  He holds an Executive MBA from Henley Business School of the University of Reading, UK (2018) and is currently studying towards his Honours in Psychology.

He has a passion for helping people succeed in their Careers and at Life.

1 comment

  • Geordie van der Nest

    Geordie van der Nest - Friday, 04 June 2021


    The latest employment statistics just released by Statistics SA, reports the unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment, which including people who have stopped looking for a work (discouraged work seekers), rose to 43.2%. The youth unemployment rate, measuring job-seekers between 15 and 24 years old, hit a new record high of 63.3%, and 74.7% for 18-34 year olds.

    That means three out of four young people do not have jobs!

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