Agriculture light in unemployment darkness

The latest Statistics SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) indicates that the number of employed persons decreased by 54 000 in the second quarter of 2021 to 14,9 million. The number of unemployed persons increased by 584 000 to 7,8 million, compared to the first quarter of 2021.

These changes resulted in the official unemployment rate increasing from 32,6% in the first quarter of 2021 to 34,4% in the second quarter of 2021 – the highest since the start of the QLFS in 2008. The unemployment rate, according to the expanded definition of unemployment, increased by 1,2 percentage points to 44,4% in quarter 2:2021 compared to quarter 1:2021. South Africa’s unemployment rate has been recorded as the highest compared to their African counterparts such as Namibia and Nigeria.[1]

The agricultural sector observed employment gains of 69 000 with provinces such as the Western Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Limpopo recording an increase in employment. A decrease has been noted in the Eastern Cape by 19 000, the Northern Cape by 9 000, Gauteng by 8 000 and Mpumalanga by 18 000.

Most concerning is the sector continuing to see a decrease in skilled agriculture[2] as it records a loss in employment from 62 000 in Q1:2021 to 45 000 in Q2:2021. This is a 27,4% quarter to quarter decrease and a 33,2% year on year decrease. 

“The increase of employment in the agricultural sector is showing the sector’s commitment to job creation, food security and growth of the economy despite many challenges,” says Lebogang Sethusha, IR administrator of Agri SA. “The organisation, however, is concerned about the quarter-to-quarter decrease of skilled workers, indicating the loss of skills within its workforce. This places a great emphasis on accelerating efforts in skills development in the sector.”  

Initiatives are seen through Agri SA’s subsidiary, Agri SA Enterprises, which has established the Agri Enterprises Training and Development Academy with the sole purpose of providing industry-specific training in scarce skills within the sector. “We can develop a community of lifelong learners, responsible citizens and champions of industries,” Sethusha says.


Johan Wege

Chairperson, Agri SA Centre of Excellence: Labour Affairs

(C) 082 337 4520

Lebogang Sethusha

Agri SA IR Administrator, Agri SA Centre of Excellence: Labour Affairs

(C) 060 528 2883


[2] Skilled agriculture being defined as persons who have undergone training or education in and/or outside his/her work environment and who is in possession of a minimum level of secondary qualification to qualify for their occupation. Stats SA Concepts and Definitions 2010