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By Cheryl Kahla

Content Strategist

Youth left behind: Reality of SA’s unemployment crisis in 2023

A deep-dive into the NEET rate and overall youth unemployment scenario in 2023, highlighting the changes and trends in the first quarter.

As we head deeper into 2023, the issue of youth unemployment remains a significant concern if Stats SA’s latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) is anything to go by.

South Africa’s young population is severely affected by unemployment and remains disengaged from the labour market.

Youth unemployment in 2023

This group, referred to as NEET (Not in Employment, Education, or Training), serves as a critical labour market indicator.

NEET in Q1 2023

As per Stats SA’s QLFS report for the first quarter of 2023, approximately 10.2 million people aged 15 to 24 were not in employment, education or training, with a concerning 36.1% identified as NEET.

Interestingly, this is slightly lower than the NEET rate in Q1: 2022 (0.8 of a percentage point).

ALSO READ: Youth unemployment a ‘ticking time bomb’

Youth unemployment by gender

In terms of gender, the men in this age group experienced a decrease in the NEET rate by 2.3 percentage points.

Unfortunately, women in this age group saw an increase of 0.6 of percentage point.

It’s noteworthy that the NEET rate for women was higher than that of their male counterparts in both years.

In a larger group of those between the ages of 15 and 34, the number of NEET individuals decreased by 1.6 percentage points, from 46.3% during the same period in 2022 to 44.7% in 2023.

To put things into context, the official unemployment rate for the first quarter of this year was 32.9%, as per the Labour Force Survey (QLFS).

Unemployment in a broader context

The number of unemployed citizens increased by 258 000 – reaching an all-time high of 16.2 million in 2023, when compared to the same period last year.

Unfortunately, the number of unemployed individuals also saw an increase of 179 000, reaching 7.9 million in Q1: 2023.

Overall, the changes in employment and unemployment led to a slight increase in the official unemployment rate from 32.7% in Q4: 2022 to 32.9% in Q1: 2023.

The unemployment rate, according to the expanded definition, decreased by 0.2 of a percentage point to 42.4% in Q1: 2023 compared to Q4: 2022.


Back in April, amid South Africa’s Freedom Day celebrations, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that R2 trillion have been set aside to address youth unemployment.

He said the financial boost would essentially eradicate youth unemployment.

“Having surpassed our investment target for the last five years, we are now working with all social partners to create conditions for businesses – both big and small – to thrive,” he added.

At the time, he said South Africans must “hold each others’ hands and build this country, so we get out of the challenges we are facing”.

READ: Youth unemployment – Too much empty talk with little action

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