Quarterly Labour Force Survey – Agriculture still our saving grace

  • 30 September 2020
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The results indicate the largest quarter one to quarter two decline in employment in the survey’s 12-year history. According to the results of the survey, the country experienced a staggering decline in employment in the second quarter of 2020. The results show that the number of persons employed in South Africa decreased by 2.2 million to 14.1 million in the second quarter of 2020. 

The agriculture sector showed the least decline in employment statistics since the last quarter. This could be due to several factors, not least of which being that the sector showed a major increase in output across all the industries this year. The second largest recorded grain harvest also contributed to a need for labour force retention in quarter two for the agricultural sector. The fact that agricultural services were declared as essential during the national lockdown also meant that the labour force employed in the agriculture sector not only retained their jobs, but also formed part of the 17,5 percent of employed professionals who continued to receive their full salary during the lockdown.

Under normal circumstances, the good performance in the agricultural sector would have translated into a much higher increase in activity and employment in the farming sector compared to the previous years. This did not happen as expected because the social distancing regulations set in place from April 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus meant that farmers could not increase their labour force as desired. The report reflects this in detail.

Contrary to expectations, the decline in employment figures does not translate to an automatic spike in unemployment figures. As a result of the national lockdown, the pursuit of employment decreased by a large margin. Those who were actively looking for work at the start of the year inevitably relaxed their efforts to do so in the second quarter.

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