The Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) is a household-based sample survey conducted by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA). It collects data on the labour market activities of individuals aged 15 years or older who live in South Africa. Since 2008, StatsSA have produced an annual dataset based on the QLFS data, "Labour Market Dynamics in South Africa". The dataset is constructed using data from all all four QLFS datasets in the year. The dataset also includes a number of variables (including income) that are not available in any of the QLFS datasets from 2010. The objective of this report is twofold: first, to present annual labour market data backcast to 2007, and second, to analyse important aspects of the labour market in South Africa over the past five years.
The South African labour market outlines important aspects of the three major groups which constitute the working-age population and discusses the relevance of age and population group to labour market outcomes over the period 2007 to 2012. They highlights differences in the composition of the workforce by province and level of education, and signals the importance of the latter for the quality of the labour supply. Summary measures, including the unemployment, absorption and labour force participation rate are then analysed. Labour market outcomes in the SADC region are analysed followed by the profile of discouraged work-seekers in South Africa. finally, they discuss labour market trends based on the expanded definition of unemployment.
Kind of Data
Sample survey data [ssd]
Unit of Analysis
Income & Wages
Tax Policy & Administration
Unit of Analysis
The QLFS sample covers the non-institutional population except for those in workers' hostels. However, persons living in private dwelling units within institutions are enumerated. For example, within a school compound, one would enumerate the schoolmaster's house and teachers' accommodation because these are private dwellings. Students living in a dormitory on the school compound would, however, be excluded.
Producers and sponsors
Authoring entity/Primary investigators
Statistics South Africa
Government of South Africa
The QLFS frame has been developed as a general purpose household survey frame that can be used by all other household surveys irrespective of the sample size requirement of the survey. The sample size for the QLFS is roughly 30 000 dwellings per quarter.
The sample is based on information collected during the 2001 Population Census conducted by Stats SA. In preparation for the 2001 Census, the country was divided into 80 787 enumeration areas (EAs). Stats SA's household-based surveys use a Master Sample of Primary Sampling Units (PSUs) which comprises of EAs that are drawn from across the country.
The sample is designed to be representative at the provincial level and within provinces at the metro/non-metro level. Within the metros, the sample is further distributed by geography type. The four geography types are: urban formal, urban informal, farms and tribal. This implies, for example, that within a metropolitan area the sample is representative at the different geography types that may exist within that metro.
The current sample size is 3 080 PSUs. It is divided equally into four sub-groups or panels called rotation groups. The rotation groups are designed in such a way that each of these groups has the same distribution pattern as that which is observed in the whole sample. They are numbered from one to four and these numbers also correspond to the quarters of the year in which the sample will be rotated for the particular group.
The sample for the QLFS is based on a stratified two-stage design with probability proportional to size (PPS) sampling of primary sampling units (PSUs) in the first stage, and sampling of dwelling units (DUs) with systematic sampling in the second stage.
Deviations from the Sample Design
For the LFSs of February 2000 to March 2004, a rotating panel sample design was used to allow for measurement of change in people’s employment situation over time. The same dwellings were visited on, at most, five different occasions. After this, new dwelling units were included for interviewing from the same PSU in the master sample. This means arotation of 20% of dwelling units each time.Each quarter, a ¼ of the sampled dwellings rotate out of the sample and are replaced by new dwellings from the same PSU or the next PSU on the list. Thus, sampled dwellings will remain in the sample for four consecutive quarters. It should be noted that the sampling unit is the dwelling, and the unit of observation is the household. Therefore, if a household moves out of a dwelling after being in the sample for, say two quarters, and a new household moves in, the new household will be enumerated for the next two quarters. If no household moves into the sampled dwelling, the dwelling will be classified as vacant (unoccupied).
The design of the QLFS enables the tracking of individuals across the quarters. This means that, in principle, as many as three out of every four individuals in the sample can be tracked between two consecutive quarters. In the fourth quarter, one in four individuals can be tracked. The results analysed in this chapter therefore match persons that were present in the sample between two consecutive quarters using the following variables: name, surname, gender, age, and population group.
In general, imputation is used for item non-response (i.e. blanks within the questionnaire) and edits failure (i.e. invalid or inconsistent responses). The eligible households in the sampled dwellings can be divided into two response categories: respondents and non-respondents. Weight adjustment is applied to account for the non-respondent households (e.g. refusal, no contact, etc.).
Average response rate by province, 2012
Province Percentages (%)
Western Cape 88.3
Eastern Cape 98.5
Northern Cape 90.7
Free State 96,7
North West 93.2
South Africa 92.6
The sampling weights for the data collected from the sampled households are constructed in such a manner that the responses could be properly expanded to represent the entire civilian population of South Africa. The weights are the result of calculations involving several factors, including original selection probabilities, adjustment for non-response, and benchmarking to known population estimates from the Demography division of Stats SA.
The final survey weights are constructed using regression estimation to calibrate to the known population counts at the national level population estimates (which are supplied by the Demography division) cross-classified by 5-year age groups, gender and race, and provincial population estimates by broad age groups. The 5-year age groups are: 0–4, 5–9, 10–14, etc., and 65 years and over. The provincial-level age groups are: 0–14, 15–34, 35–64, and 65 years and over. The calibrated weights are constructed in such a way that all persons in a household would have the same final weight.
Dates of Data Collection (YYYY/MM/DD)
Time periods (YYYY/MM/DD)
Mode of data collection
Type of Research Instrument
The questionnaire of the Labour Force Survey 2012 is used for the interviews of labour Market Dynamic.
Contents of the QLFS questionnaire
Section Number of Details of each section
Section 1 10 Biographical information (marital status, language, migration, education, training, literacy, etc.
Section 2 7 Economic activities
Section 3 19 Unemployment and economic inactivity
Section 4 25 Main work activities in the last week
Section 5 9 Earnings in the main job
All sections 70 Comprehensive coverage of all aspects of the labour market
The CD contains a flat, ASCII, fixed-field file, with one line of given length per record. This format was chosen to make the data usable with as many statistical programs as possible, and thus accessible to as wide a range of people as possible. Users can also access, explore and download the micro data in various formats, i.e. SAS, SPSS, Stata, etc., as well as the metadata from StatsOnline at www.statssa.gov.za. Click on 'Interactive data' then 'Explore micro data'.
Statistics South Africa. Labour Market Dynamics in South Africa 2012 [dataset]. Version 1.2. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa [producer], 2015. Cape Town: DataFirst [distributor], 2015.