News roundup - Tracing unemployment among graduates from Rhodes and Fort Hare universities

A poor schooling background follows students right through university and graduation, and influences their chances of finding employment, especially if they are black and female. This is one of the conclusions reached in a study by Rhodes University researchers Michael Rogan and John Reynolds.

The study formed part of the Labour Market Intelligence Partnership, a research consortium headed by the Human Sciences Research Council and funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training. It was published as a working paper, entitled ‘Schooling inequality, higher education and the labour market: evidence from a graduate trader study in the Eastern Cape, South Africa’.

The researchers interviewed a random sample of successful graduates from Rhodes University (RU) and the University of Fort Hare (UFH). Data from 469 graduates from RU and 742 from the UFH were gathered through telephonic interviews and an online survey.

One of the most striking findings of the study was the difference in unemployment rates between the two groups. The unemployment rate among Rhodes graduates was 7%, while the unemployment rate among Fort Hare graduates was almost three times as high (20%).

The risk of unemployment is significantly higher for black graduates, and in particular for black women, says Dr Michael Rogan, first author of the paper. ‘The disappointing conclusion… is that race and gender, and not achievements, appear to be consistent predicators of success in the labour market.’

Another significant link with unemployment is low income schooling, says Rogan. ‘In other words, being female and coming from a low-income school carries an extra risk of unemployment.’ He recommends that rather than addressing study choices to solve graduate unemployment, policy should focus on improving the match between these graduates and the labour market.