Further drop in agri employment

Agriculture shed 25 000 jobs in the third quarter (Q3), having cut 84 000 jobs in the first half of 2017, according to figures released by Statistics SA.

Further drop in agri employment
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“This puts the combined agricultural job cuts for the past three quarters of this year at 109 000,” Agbiz said in a statement.

The agricultural business chamber revealed that 2017 had also differed from other years as the usual Q3 uptick had been absent.

Agri SA’s deputy executive director, Christo van der Rheede, told Farmer’s Weekly that his organisation was very concerned at the latest figures.

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He said that the ongoing drought in the Western Cape, Northern Cape and parts of the Eastern Cape were expected to have further impacts, and “even bigger job losses” were anticipated.

In a statement, Statistics SA said that the country’s overall employment in Q3 had actually grown by 93 000. However, this had been offset by 33 000 new job seekers who had entered the market. This had left the unemployment rate stable at 27,7%.

“The youth remain vulnerable in the labour market,” Statistics SA cautioned, adding that youth unemployment stood at 38,6%. According to the NEET rate (the proportion of young people ‘Not Employed, in Education or Training’), nearly a third of the 10,3 million population of 15 to 24-year-olds were affected.

This meant that about three million youths were not working.

Van der Rheede said that the number of unemployed youth was probably far greater than the official figure. Adding the expanded definition of unemployment to unofficial figures, it appeared that as many as 60% of youth were currently unemployed.

“That in itself presents a huge time-bomb for social stability,” he said.

Agricultural economist Dr Kobus Laubscher said that research suggested that a large percentage of those currently unemployed were not expected to become employable or be absorbed into the workforce later in life.

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Many school leavers, and even graduates, were entering the workspace without the necessary skill-set to be employable. Even those with appropriate training often lacked practical experience or a frame of reference.

Laubscher said that job creation in the agricultural sector would need to take place on the other side of the farm gate, where processing and logistics occurred.

“You’ll still be working with an agricultural product, but you’ll need fewer people to process it. Technology comes into play. This also means you need a higher skilled person,” he said.

Van der Rheede said that agriculture, along with mining and construction, was a major employer of lower-skilled workers, and government should not impose unnecessary regulation on sectors such as this that had the ability to employ millions of lower-skilled people.

“If you burden those sectors with the same regulations that you impose on more sophisticated sectors […] you are losing the plot completely,” he said.