An Initial Assessment of Biodiversity-Related Employment in South Africa

In the context of high and persistent unemployment in South Africa, this paper explores the extent to which the country’s biodiversity assets, which are exceptional in global terms, contribute to providing jobs. A conceptual framework for defining biodiversity-related employment is presented. Using a methodology that draws on a combination of three different data sources (administrative data, national survey data, and existing estimates for particular biodiversity-related sectors or subsectors), an initial estimate was developed of 388 000 direct jobs related to biodiversity in 2014, representing 2.5% of national employment. The estimate was subsequently updated to 418 000 biodiversity-related jobs in 2017, representing 2.6% of national employment. Of these 418 000 jobs, 17% (72 000) were jobs involved in conserving biodiversity, and 83% (346 000) were jobs that depend on using biodiversity, including both non-consumptive and extractive use. The number of jobs that depend on using biodiversity is likely to be an underestimate, as data was available only for some biodiversity-related sectors or sub-sectors. An important finding is that for every job dedicated to conserving or managing South Africa’s biodiversity assets and ecological infrastructure, approximately five jobs depend on utilising biodiversity.