QLFS shows the growing importance of agriculture to job creation

The employment result for the fourth quarter of 2021, which were announced by Stats SA in its Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) on Tuesday, 29 March 2022 showcase the growing importance of the agricultural sector as an employer in South Africa. Employment in the sector increased by 38 000 jobs quarter on quarter, from 829 000 jobs in Q3 to 868 000 in Q4 of 2021. Year-on-year, employment numbers were up by 57 000 jobs (having stood at 810 000 in Q4 of 2020).

Various provinces showed growth in employment numbers for agriculture, but some jobs were shed in the Western Cape (down 19 000 jobs), the Free State (down 6 000 jobs) and Limpopo (down 9 000 jobs).

Agri SA does, however, note that employment in skilled agriculture has not recovered to the level of Q4 for 2020. The Q4 2021 result shows that 68 000 people were employed in skilled agriculture for that period, compared to the same quarter in 2020 when 85 000 people were employed. This is a 20.6% decrease year-on-year. While the quarter-on-quarter results do show a level of recovery (skilled employment stood at 63 000 jobs in Q3 of 2021), there is still much ground to be made up. It remains a concern that this drop in skilled employment represents a brain drain for the sector.

Despite the recent QLFS results being positive overall, the sector’s growth continues to be stifled by poor infrastructure such as roads, rail and ports, amongst many other challenges like rising input costs. In this difficult climate, the growth in employment in the sector for Q4 of 2021 shows that the sector is still capable of absorbing labour and providing much-needed jobs to South Africans. Addressing these constraints on growth would enable the sector to create even more employment opportunities during this difficult period as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both this potential to absorb labour, including many opportunities for those with low skills and education levels, and the continued trend of poor recovery in skilled employment numbers in the sector point to the need for further investment in skills training for the agricultural sector. Agri SA and its members are committed both to creating new opportunities for the nation’s low-skilled workers, and to advancing effective skills training and education programmes to allow those currently employed in the sector to move into increasingly more skilled roles. 

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