South Africa has an economically active population of 17.4 million (2007 estimate), of whom 55 percent are male and 45 percent female. About 65 percent of the labor force is employed in the service industry, about 25 percent in industry, and about 10 percent in agriculture (2003). The current level of unemployment is measured at 23 (2007) percent of the labor force, which represents a slight decline from 2004 levels. Unemployment is much higher among the black population than other groups, and lowest among whites and Asians. Blacks account for much of the informal sector. This sector includes many unregulated small businesses as well as individuals providing a variety of services, such as car washing, street vending, and gardening.
Due to the historically inadequate education and training opportunities available to blacks, the South African labor force has a high proportion of lower-skilled workers.
Many of South Africa’s workers belong to trade unions, most of which are affiliated with larger trade union federations. The largest is the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), formally allied to the governing ANC. Other trade union federations include the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU) and the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA). Major problems for the union movement are the increasing numbers of unemployed people, who represent a much larger constituency than the union movement, and the growing informal sector.
Major concerns among the industrial unions are training and education, human resource development, the removal of discriminatory practices and the implementation of affirmative action, basic adult education, centralized collective bargaining, the debate over a national minimum wage, and the right to strike.
In total, service industries contributed 66 percent of GDP in 2007. The largest categories are wholesale and retail trade, real estate and business services, catering and accommodation, government, finance, and insurance. Transport, utilities, construction, and community and personal services make up most of the remainder. The financial sector is highly developed and on par with industrialized nations.
Tourism is widely viewed as a rich, potential source of jobs and foreign exchange, and as an eventual alternative to the gold industry, which is in long-term decline. Attractions include the scenic beauty of the Cape wine region, the Drakensberg and the mountains of Mpumalanga, national parks and game reserves, beaches, and the climate.
During the apartheid years this potential could not be realized because of the country’s negative international image and perceived political instability. Since 1994 the industry has expanded dramatically, with the number of overseas visitors increased by 52 percent in 1995 alone. In 2007, 9.1 million tourists visited South Africa. "South Africa" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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