Areas of concern still remained, however, including a decreased demand for South African exports and rising unemployment. Indeed, unemployment continued to be a persistent problem in the country—one often attributed to the shrinking demand for workers in the traditional mining sector and an education system that had failed to prepare poor students for the workplace.7

In January 2009, despite an annual growth rate of 5 percent over the previous five years, the fastest in South African history, unemployment remained at 23.2 percent, and it increased to 23.6 percent that June. While the unemployment rate stabilized around that time, it was estimated to be as high as 30 percent if one included those who have given up looking for employment. The number of people who stopped looking for employment in June 2009 jumped by 302,000 to 1.5 million people.8

Such unemployment problems spurred poverty and dissatisfaction. More than half of all South Africans, or 57 percent, were living below the poverty line in 2001. Moreover, the problem was only growing. People were sinking deeper into poverty, making it more difficult to get out of it. In addition, the gap between rich and poor had widened.9

By October 2008, researchers from the South Africa Human Science Research Council found that 52 percent of 3,321 people surveyed were unhappy with the state of the economy. The survey also showed that 65 percent of those identified as economically disadvantaged were unhappy with democracy, as well.10

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