A study conducted by a national consortium of 30 social science researchers from local universities, known as NIDS-CRAM, has shown a remarkable bounceback in jobs in South Africa.
Between February and April 2020, there was a substantial increase in those who were not employed – from 43% to 52%, as well as an increase in furloughed workers.
By October 2020, the percentage of people employed was much closer to its February pre-pandemic level.
The fraction of people employed – including furloughed workers – has changed from 57% in February 2020, to 48% in April and June, and was 55% in October.
These results suggest a considerable recovery in the South African labour market between June and October 2020.
This, however, does not mean most people who lost their jobs during the pandemic were re-employed.
Of those who lost their jobs in April, only half were employed again by October. About a third of those without employment in February were employed in October.
This suggests substantial churning in the labour market, which no longer looks the same as it did prior to the pandemic inspired lockdowns.
Job recovery was stronger for those with more education, especially among the youth.
Those with a matric were more likely to be employed in October (42%) compared to February (29%), while employment for those with more than matric increased from 42% in February to 46% in October.
There was an opposite trend for youth with less than matric, whose employment was actually lower in October (23%) than in February (28%).
This positive correlation between education and employment was also found for prime-age adults (25-40 years), but not for older adults (41-55 years).
The image below shows the labour market transition between February and October 2020.