South Africans expect job creation and moral leadership in the next five years – Survey

Photo by Gerhard Steenkamp

When president Zuma delivers his State of the Nation address to open the new parliament next week (17 June 2014), South Africans would like him to focus on the government’s plans for reducing unemployment and focus on job creation and to remind parliamentarians that voters expect them to show moral leadership.

These are the findings from the latest Ipsos Pulse of the People™ study.

After 20 years of democracy, unemployment is still the biggest issue

In the Ipsos Pulse of the People™ studies, a randomly selected cross-section of South Africans are asked to indicate their work status[1].  These figures are representative of the universe – i.e. adult South Africans.

According to the latest study, just more than a third (36%) of adult South Africans are working, either full time or part time, while a further third are unemployed and looking for work.

As June is “youth month,” it makes sense to look at the figures with regard to young people in more detail: a third (33%, about 2,782 million) are currently studying, however, almost half (48%) are unemployed and looking for work.  Youth employment is a problem in many parts of the world, but these figures indicate that it is particularly severe in South Africa and needs urgent attention and action.

Working status Total adult population


18-24 year olds


Working full-time 29 10
Working part-time 7 4
Retired 11
Student 10 33
Housewife 4 1
Unemployed – looking for work 33 48
Unemployed – not looking for work 6 4

Looking at the evaluation of the performance of the government[2] on the issue of “reducing unemployment by creating jobs” about four in every ten (38%) said that the government was doing “very” or “fairly well” in handling this issue, while six in every ten (61%) said that the government was “not doing very well” or was “not at all doing well” in handling this issue.[3]

While unemployment in our country is severe, there is also a skills shortage, and just more than half (54%) of adult South Africans feel that the government is “addressing the educational needs of all South Africans”.  More than four in every ten (44%) say the government is “not handling this issue well.”[4]

In addition, 53% feel that “the education system in South Africa is failing the country’s children.” One in every five (20%) disagree with this statement. The quality and type of education thus needs serious attention to act as a possible way of addressing the issue of unemployment.[5]

Issues to be addressed in the next 5 years – the choice of voters

If we concentrate on the views of those South Africans who voted in the national election on 7 May 2014, they yield very clear results.  The questions were asked as follows:

“What are the most important issues or problems facing this country that the NEW government should address?”

As a follow-up question we asked:

“Which one of the issues that you just mentioned is the most important to you personally?”[6]

Issues Mentioned


Most important issue for the government to address


Unemployment/job creation/too few jobs 90 55
Crime/criminal activity 60 8
Poverty 59 9
Corruption, government officials not honest 53 9
Development/industrial/providing infrastructure, water, electricity, roads, housing 47 10
Education/educational standards/equality in education 38 3
Health/hospitals/clinics 30 1
Land/Landlessness/land claims 21 1
Brain drain/losing trained or skilled people 13 1
Other 1 2

With nine out of every ten voters(90%) saying that unemployment should be addressed and more than half (55%) choosing it as the most important issue, these results needed to be analysed in more detail – the following analysis is still based on those who voted on 7 May and not on all South Africans.[7]

  • Although all age groups mentioned unemployment as the biggest issues to be addressed, it is clear that it is of particular importance to young people.  Education is also more important to this group than to others:








Unemployment/job creation/too few jobs 61 57 58 48
Development/industrial/providing infrastructure, water, electricity, roads, housing 8 12 9 9
Poverty 5 9 8 12
Corruption, government officials not honest 8 7 9 12
Crime/criminal activity 7 8 7 11
Education 7 * * *

The addressing of unemployment is of particular importance to black voters:









Unemployment/job creation/too few jobs 60 32 54 36
Development/industrial/providing infrastructure, water, electricity, roads, housing 11 6 5 *
Poverty 10 6 6 5
Corruption, government officials not honest 7 22 8 20
Crime/criminal activity 5 20 18 26
Education * 7 6 6
Health/hospitals/clinics * 5 * *
  • Unemployment is of particular importance in North West, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape – mentioned by more than six in every ten voters in these three provinces:


















Unemployment/job creation/too few jobs 51 52 63 56 58 69 59 41 63
Development/industrial/providing infrastructure, water, electricity, roads, housing 7 * 7 18 8 10 22 9 10
Poverty 10 * 6 11 7 8 5 19 14
Corruption, government officials not honest 11 9 6 9 13 5 10 11
Crime/criminal activity 9 20 9 * 10 * * 11 *
Education * 6 * * * * * * *
  • Although unemployment and job creation are high on the agenda of supporters of the three biggest political parties in the country, it is a special focus point for ANC supporters:






Unemployment/job creation/too few jobs 61 41 53
Development/industrial/providing infrastructure, water, electricity, roads, housing 11 5 16
Poverty 11 6 5
Corruption, government officials not honest 6 18 13
Crime/criminal activity 5 18 6
Education * 6 *

Moral leadership and accountability

South African voters want their MP’s to be accountable and more than seven in every ten (73%) feel that “Members of Parliament should be fired for negligent spending”.  On the other hand, a very small proportion of 8% disagrees:



Strongly agree 42
Agree 31
Neither agree nor disagree 19
Disagree 5
Strongly disagree 3

The same proportion of voters also feel that “The personal life of Members of Parliament should set an example to citizens”.



Strongly agree 41
Agree 32
Neither agree nor disagree 19
Disagree 5
Strongly disagree 2
Don’t Know/refused 1

The future

However, looking towards the future, only half (51%) of South African voters (regardless of the party they supported in the election) agreed with the following statement: “I have faith that the ANC will live up to their election promises”:



Strongly agree 23
Agree 28
Neither agree nor disagree 25
Disagree 10
Strongly disagree 13
Don’t Know/refused 1

Not surprisingly, ANC voters express the strongest support for the party, with two thirds of them (65%) saying that their party will live up to their election promises; 40% of EFF supporters believe this and only 15% of DA supporters.

The voters in Limpopo feel the strongest that the ANC will live up to their election promises, while voters in the Western Cape and the Northern Cape expect the least.  However, in all other provinces, only about half of voters expect delivery on election promises.

GP % WC % KZN % MP % FS % NW % LP % EC % NC %
Strongly agree/Agree 50 22 58 51 55 53 73 50 38

One reason for these lukewarm feelings might be the so-called ’return on investment’ that voters experience. This is illustrated by the reactions to the following statement: “I feel that we are paying a lot of tax, but do not get our money’s worth in terms of service delivery from the government”. Six in every ten voters (62%) agreed with this statement and only 12% disagreed:

Voters %
Strongly agree 30
Agree 32
Niether agree nor disagree 23
Disagree 8
Strongly disagree 4
Don’t Know/refused 3

Voters of all three the biggest political parties agree that they pay too much for what they receive:

ANC 59%

DA 68%

EFF 68%

Although all South Africans feel the economic pinch, about a third (35%) of voters say that they think their families will be better off in a year’s time. The youth especially (18-24 years old) are fairly optimistic: 42% of them think that they will be better off in a year’s time, while 21% of those older than 50 think that they will be worse off in a year’s time:

And how do you think your family’s lives will be in a year’s time? Voters %
Better off than today 35
About the same 48
Worse off than today 17

Technical detail

A total of 3,730 personal face-to-face interviews were conducted with randomly selected adult South Africans. The interviews were done in the homes and home languages of respondents.  Trained quantitative fieldworkers from all population groups were responsible for the interviewing, which took place from 20 February to 28 March 2014.  This methodology ensured that the results are representative of the views of the universe and that findings can be weighted and projected to the universe – i.e. South Africans 18 years and older.

Interviews were done using CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing) and all results were collated and analysed in an aggregate format to protect the identity and confidentiality of respondents.

All sample surveys are subject to a margin of error, determined by sample size, sampling methodology and response rate. The sample error for the sample as a whole at a 95% confidence level is a maximum of 1,67%.  When analysing the results for smaller parties or overall Provincial party share in particular on an individual party basis the margin of error will be higher.

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[1] Please note that this analysis is based on what people said themselves, i.e. not on modelling or specific definitions of “unemployment”.

[2] Ipsos tests the government performance on 25 policy areas every six months.

[3] 1% chose the “Don’t know” option as answer to this question.

[4] 2% chose the “Don’t know” option as answer to this question.

[5] The full results to this question are:

Strongly agree 21%;

Agree 32%;

Neither agree nor disagree 25%;

Disagree 12%;

Strongly  disagree 8%;

Don’t know 2%

[6] These questions were asked in an open-ended way, i.e. respondents could mention whatever they wanted and responses were coded afterwards.

[7] In the following tables only results of 5% and more are shown.

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