This policy brief aims to clarify the currently used metrics, what value they have, what they miss, and their policy implications. It begins by unpacking the technical definitions of various metrics used in the South African context, considering the implications associated with each metric. Additional concerns regarding methodologies and assumptions, and data sources are also elaborated. Having clarified these metrics, figures reported by key actors are systematically presented. Finally, this brief reflects on what the reported figures do and do not say, and policy suggestions.
This policy brief is part of the Making Sense of Employment in South Africa's Just Energy Transition project. TIPS and the WWF South Africa, with the support of GIZ, are implementing an initiative to support policymaking for South Africa's just transition. This focuses on employment and the relevant challenges and opportunities in the country's just energy transition.
The Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) data for the second quarter of 2020 was published by Statistics South Africa on 29 September. The most important findings are the relatively heavy hit that the COVID-19 pandemic inflicted on lower-level workers, especially informal workers who are typically engaged in low paying and precarious work. The QLFS finds that the number of
employed people decreased from 16.4 million in the first quarter of 2020 to 14.2 million in the second quarter, for a loss of
2.3 million jobs or 13.5%.
This policy brief looks at the impact of COVID-19 on employment in quarter two of 2020, with a focus on trends in formal sector employment, sectoral employment and implications for race and gender inequality, particularly in vulnerable sectors. It looks at the impact on industries in which many women work, such as private households and community services, and makes some policy recommendations.
Read online: Employment trends in the South African economy
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Third Quarter 2019
In this edition
GDP growth: For the second time this year, the GDP contracted in the third quarter of 2019. In the past two years, the economy has reportedly shrunk in four quarters, underscoring the effects of the slowdown. Reported GDP growth has also become unusually erratic, with the economy growing reasonably strongly when it was not actually shrinking. Read more.
Employment: Total employment remained virtually unchanged over the past year. Construction lost 160 000 jobs, however, which was offset by growth in other industries. Quarterly figures are hard to interpret because they are not seasonally adjusted. Read more.
International trade: In constant rand, South African exports have increased slightly since 2014, while imports are lower than they were five years ago despite some increases in the past two years. Read more.
Investment and profitability: Private investment recovered over the year to September 2019, with a particularly sharp increase in the second to third quarter 2019. This growth reversed a decline over the previous three years. In contrast, both the government and state-owned corporations (SOCs) saw a fall in investment. Read more.
Foreign direct investment projects: The TIPS FDI Tracker tracks foreign direct investment projects on a quarterly basis, using published information. In the third quarter of 2019, 16 projects were added to the FDI Tracker. Investment values were available for 11 of these projects, and the pledged value came to R13 billion. Read more.
Briefing note: Responding to the economic slowdown: The GDP has for the second time this year slipped into negative territory. Since 2015 the economy has struggled to break free from sluggish performance. An appropriate policy response, however, requires an accurate diagnostic. In particular, we need to understand why growth has slowed steadily since before 2011, not only in South Africa but globally. Read the briefing note online: Responding to the economic slowdown.
Briefing note: SAA by the numbers: In the first week of December 2019, South African Airways (SAA) was put into business rescue.This briefing note provides an overview of its financial position, which left government with no other realistic option. Read the briefing note online: SAA by the numbers.
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - First Quarter 2019
In this edition
GDP growth: The GDP declined in the first quarter of 2019, while the economy lost jobs. The downturn continues the trend of volatile growth rates that began five years ago. Previous quarterly downturns in this period, however, were driven by agriculture; in contrast, the past quarter saw a broad-based decline. The briefing note on the economic slowdown explores factors behind these trends. Read more.
Employment: Employment in the real economy fell by 160 000 jobs in the year to the first quarter of 2019. It is now at the same level it was in 2015. Manufacturing and construction accounted for the bulk of the net loss in jobs. In the rest of the economy, community and social services lost more than 200 000 jobs while other sectors gained employment. Overall, employment as a whole lost jobs for only the second time since 2010. Read more.
International trade: In constant rand terms, South African exports have barely grown since 2013. In US dollars, they climbed from 2016 to mid-2018, but fell more than 10% in the six months to March 2019. Nonetheless, an even faster decline in imports – due in part to slow growth and in part to fairly low petroleum prices – meant that the balance of payments remained positive, although a deficit emerged in the first quarter of 2019. Read more.
Investment and profitability: The 2% fall in investment from the year to the first quarter 2018 to the year to the first quarter 2019 was a central factor behind the economic downturn. The sharpest decline emerged for public investment, although both state-owned enterprises and government departments reported a recovery in the first quarter of 2019 alone. Private investment, in contrast, grew slightly year on year, but contracted sharply from the fourth quarter of 2018 to the first quarter of 2019. Read more.
Foreign direct investment projects: The TIPS FDI Tracker tracks foreign direct investment projects, analysing new and updated projects quarterly. Based on media monitoring, it added 14 new projects in the past quarter. Ten of these were in manufacturing, and five were greenfield projects. Six projects previously captured in the Tracker have been updated, with two reaching completion. Read more.
Briefing note: The economic slowdown: The first quarter of 2019 saw a convergence of poor economic data. The GDP fell by 0.8%; investment, by 1.1%; and exports by 2%. Employment dropped by 1.4%, or 240 000 jobs. Seasonal job losses are not uncommon in the first quarter, but from 2010 to 2018 they averaged just 0.1%, so 2019 saw a significantly larger fall. Read the briefing note online: The economic slowdown.
Briefing note: African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) - Supporting inclusive growth and transformation: The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) requires 22 countries to ratify its adoption and submit proof/deposit the instruments of ratification with the African Union (AU) for it to come into effect. On 29 April that happened, and on 30 May 2019 the free trade agreement came into effect. Read the briefing note online: African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): Supporting inclusive growth and transformation.
Main Bulletin: The Real Economy Bulletin - Fourth Quarter 2018
In this edition
GDP growth: South Africa’s GDP grew by an estimated 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2018, after expanding 0.6% in the third quarter. For the year, the GDP grew 0.8%. Manufacturing and agriculture continue to grow, but construction and mining struggled. Read more.
Employment: The economy as a whole generated 360 000 jobs in the year to the fourth quarter of 2018, mostly in the informal sector and domestic work. Employment in manufacturing, mining and agriculture remained essentially flat, while construction reportedly created 90 000 mostly informal jobs over the year. Read more.
International trade: South Africa’s balance of trade strengthened in the fourth quarter, mainly due to a fall in imports while exports increased. The economy typically runs surpluses during periods of slow growth, as seen in the past three years. Read more.
Investment and profitability: The decline in public investment, which has contributed to slower GDP growth since 2015, continued in 2018. In contrast, private investment picked up somewhat, although it remained below levels achieved before the commodity boom ended in 2012. Read more.
Foreign direct investment projects: Eighteen new projects were added to the TIPS Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Tracker in the past quarter. Some of these projects were announced during the Investment Conference held in October 2018 while others date back before it. Read more.
Briefing note: The 2019 budget and industrialisation: The 2019 Budget faced tough choices. In the end, National Treasury prioritised core social services, infrastructure, and rescuing Eskom while avoiding an excessive increase in the national debt. The trade-off is a squeeze on industrial policy programmes, which will see cuts in real terms. Read the briefing note online: The 2019 budget and industrialisation.
Briefing note: Unlocking the potential of renewable energy for public sector and communities: Historically, South Africa's electricity mix has relied heavily on cheap and readily accessible coal, with the country's electricity being provided through Eskom's vertically-integrated model. In 2011, the country opened up space in the electricity generation sector for private sector participation, through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme. While this introduced renewable energy technologies into South Africa, the approach effectively locked renewable energy in the private sector, excluding Eskom, municipalities and consumers from renewable energy generation.Read the briefing note online: Unlocking the potential of renewable energy.