In 2019 the young graduate unemployment rate reached an all time high of 15.7%
While this is significantly lower than the national unemployment rate of 29%, the young graduate unemployment rate has grown more rapidly than in other education cohorts (e.g. individuals with only a diploma, matric, or less than matric). Between 2008 and 2019 the young graduate unemployment rate doubled.
The increase in the unemployment rate can be attributed to South Africa’s weak growth performance coupled with a growing workforce
A consequence of the increasing unemployment rate is that the pool of unemployed young graduates is becoming saturated with inexperienced workers
Over the past five years the number of unemployed young graduates who have never worked before almost doubled to over 50,000. Over the same time period the number of unemployed graduates who have worked before but have been unemployed for over a year more than doubled. This leaves a pool of inexperienced young graduates with a steady erosion of skills among those who have had some work experience.
The burden of unemployment is mostly borne by previously disadvantaged graduates
Previously disadvantaged graduates make up 60% of the young graduate workforce, however they make up almost 90% of unemployed young graduates. When we consider only those unemployed young graduates who have never worked before, the proportion of graduates who are previously disadvantaged increases to over 90%.
Young previously disadvantaged female graduates are the most likely segment to be unemployed; according to the Quarterly Labour Force data, 23% of young previously disadvantaged female graduates are unemployed, compared to 21% for young previously disadvantaged male graduates and 5% for young white graduates.