During 1995–2003, the number of formal jobs decreased and informal jobs increased; overall unemployment worsened.
The government’s Black Economic Empowerment policies have drawn criticism from Neva Makgetla, lead economist for research and information at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, for focusing “almost exclusively on promoting individual ownership by black people (which) does little to address broader economic disparities, though the rich may become more diverse.” Official affirmative action policies have seen a rise in black economic wealth and an emerging black middle class. Other problems include state ownership and interference, which impose high barriers to entry in many areas. Restrictive labour regulations have contributed to the unemployment malaise.
Along with many African nations, South Africa has been experiencing a “brain drain” in the past 20 years. This is believed to be potentially damaging for the regional economy and is almost certainly detrimental for the well-being of those reliant on the healthcare infrastructure. The skills drain in South Africa tends to demonstrate racial contours given the skills distribution legacy of South Africa and has thus resulted in large white South African communities abroad. However, the statistics which purport to show a brain drain are disputed and also do not account for repatriation and expiry of foreign work contracts. According to several surveys there has been a reverse in brain drain following the global financial crisis of 2008–2009 and expiration of foreign work contracts. In the first quarter of 2011, confidence levels for graduate professionals were recorded at a level of 84% in a PPS survey.