South Africa: Sink or Swim

South Africa is currently suffering from a high rate of unemployment making it difficult for the economy to grow. Forecasted growth rates have already been downscaled as the largest economy in Africa is struggling to meet targets. The countries main contributor to GDP can be identified as consumer spending and this is why the persistent unemployment is having a considerable effect on growth forecasts.

Key Terms:

Unemployment – “Those out of work, actively seeking work at the current wage rate”

GDP/Growth – Measured by the output of an economy (gross domestic product)

Consumer Spending – Spending on retail goods, energy consumption, transportation, housing costs, and other areas where disposable income is spent.

Due to the high levels of unemployment it can be noted that there is a decline in aggregate demand within the economy. Colen Garrow states that the retail sector is weakening and there is going to be pressure overall as there is a lack of demand. It can be noted that to an extent the South African economy is contracting as there has been increased inflation as a result of a cost-push and fall in aggregate demand (shown below).

Picture1

The shift for aggregate demand from AD to AD1 is a result of the rise in unemployment, the people have less spending power and therefore there is an overall decrease in consumer demand. The shift of aggregate supply is a result of the tightening credit environment as firms struggle to meet their costs. The red rectangle represents the inflationary response in the economy as a result of the shift in aggregate supply. So as a whole the South African economy has retracted as output has significantly decreased (resulting in forecasts for future growth to decline) and there has been an inflationary response, as the price level has increased.

There is also the factor of unemployment which is 24.9% falling from the peak during Q4 of 2012 at 25.5%.This is shown simply below with a demand and supply relationship of labour in South Africa.

Picture2

Currently in the market labour is only being demanded at the point of LD but the supply is at LS. This surplus of labour is the current unemployment. With so many out of work and seeking work it is clear that economy is not working to full capacity. If a production possibility frontier for the economy was shown it would be operating within the curve. This further explains the economies inability to have substantial growth.

Consumer spending has radically decreased, making it difficult for the economy to grow and therefore attempt to combat the unemployment. This is realised by the fact that private sector demand for credit dropped from 10.09% to 8.64%. This is why the retail sector is struggling, as the unemployment and inflation has led to the decline of demand.

The unemployment in South Africa can be seen as a combination of structural and cyclical unemployment. Mining has been one of the major consumers of labour in the region, and recent closing of mines and movement by companies to other African regions for mining has meant a structural change in labour demand. The cyclical unemployment is a result of the struggling economy, as different firms reduce the amount of people they employ to meet the higher costs of production.

In the short run the economy is not likely to recover, growth is a must if the government aims to combat the high rate of unemployment. It is essential to restore consumer confidence in the economy, and also enable people to obtain credit more easily as to restore the aggregate demand of the economy.

In the long run for the economy to attempt to maintain growth, eliminating unemployment is essential to attempt to get the economy working back at a point of the PPF. However this could lead to an inflationary response in the form of a demand pull, and the government will need to begin considering how to reduce already increasing inflation as a result of increasing production costs.

Currently in the South African economy the rate of unemployment is pulling it down, in this situation there are no winners within the country. Exports may become more favourable as the inflation will weaken the South African Rand, but make investing in South Africa unlikely. To solve the unemployment in South Africa is difficult as a result of its cyclical and structural qualities; the first step would be to create more job opportunities. However, it is also essential that a greater majority of people achieve education and training whether it is academic or vocational to help improve employability prospects.

Expected growth by 2014 is forecasted at around 3.4% which is still considerable in comparison to some countries in the EU. There is still risk though investing within the country and the government must do more to encourage foreign investment and begin a round of serious structural investment such as roads to create jobs and spur on growth.

There is the potential for South Africa to climb out of the current situation, and unemployment stands at the centre of it. The country is still Africa’s biggest economy and will continue to be so if it can achieve consistency with its currency and sustained growth.

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