In the late 1990s the Department of Education restricted the re-enrolment of over-aged learners and the number of times underperforming learners could repeat a grade. This was intended to reduce the number of learners in the school system, but may have contributed to a sudden increase in measured unemployment. Of the 2.3 million increase in the number of unemployed between 1997 and 2003, up to 900 000 may be due to unintended effects of these policies which brought hidden (youth) unemployment into the open.
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Written by Rulof Burger, Senior lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch; Servaas van der Berg, Professor, Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University; and Dieter von Fintel, Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch.
This article was first published on the Econ3x3 website – Accessible policy-relevant research and expert commentaries on unemployment and employment, income distribution and inclusive growth in South Africa.