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Graduate unemployment in South Africa

Internal project, South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA)

2019 (ongoing)

Quarterly Labour Force Survey, student administrative data anonymised and aggregated by HEDA

Survey data analysis


There have been numerous papers and media articles discussing graduate unemployment in South Africa. Many conclude that there is no graduate unemployment problem because the unemployment rate for working age graduates is significantly lower than that of all working age South Africans. However, much of the analysis to date does not focus on youth, and also does not consider additional factors of gender and race. This analysis set out to provide an updated and more nuanced view of graduate unemployment.


Analyses on graduate unemployment are constrained by available data. As shown in the table below, there are relatively few survey respondents who are graduates, fewer who are young and fewer still who are unemployed. Refining this further by race or gender, not to mention field of study becomes impossible.

To overcome this sample size limitation, we pooled the data across quarters to generate a larger sample. This is pooling technique was also applied by Van Den Berg and Van Broekhuizen in their 2012 analysis of graduate unemployment (https://www.ekon.sun.ac.za/wpapers/2012/wp222012).


Graduate unemployment appears to be a problem in South Africa, and one that impacts on black women disproportionately. But publicly available data is just not good enough for us to be absolutely certain. If we care enough, we should be looking at better data that lies in university administrative systems and the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

Project resources


Revisiting graduate unemployment in South Africa