Key Points:

  • Graduate unemployment in South Africa is an exaggerated problem. South Africa has seen a rapid rise in the number of university graduates since 1994, and nearly all have found work.
  • Labour force participation rates rise with education resulting in graduates being 30 percentage points more likely to participate in the labour market than people without a matric, suggesting that the benefit of having a degree is increasing.
  • Most of the growth in graduate employment is due to demand from the private sector, with the proportion of graduates working in the public sector falling from 50 per cent in 1995 to about 35 per cent in 2011.
  • Although unemployment rates have risen since 2008, graduate unemployment has remained low. This proves that worsening economic conditions have less of an impact on graduate unemployment than on people without degrees.
  •  In 2010, Whites made up the largest number of graduates in the labour market (just under 500 000), however, they will be soon be overtaken by black African graduates, who already number 432 000. An important distinction between the experiences of white and black graduates is that the latter are some three times more likely to be unemployed.