In 1997, about 113,000 people were employed in Swaziland: 57 percent in the private sector, 28 percent in the public sector , and 15 percent in the informal sector . An additional 13,000 Swazis worked as miners in South Africa. About 22 percent of the labor force is recorded as unemployed. However, the unemployment rate has little meaning in Africa, for it relates to those registering as looking for jobs in the urban areas as a percentage of the formal labor force. The largest part of the labor force in Swaziland, 60 percent, is in the agricultural sector, much of it in small-scale family farms outside the formal sector.
With no social security provisions, those without work or support from families or charities cannot survive. For much of the year in subsistence farming there is relatively little work to do, and what work there is is shared among the family members. During planting and harvesting, there is more work to be done, and everyone is more fully occupied, but even in these periods, there may be more than enough labor to do the tasks, and the work is again shared. Everyone sharing the work appears to have an occupation in agriculture, but in fact workers are not engaged full time for all the year, and hence there is some disguised unemployment.
There is a Federation of Trade Unions in Swaziland. Minimum wage levels are set, but the level is low, particularly for female agricultural workers, to avoid creating unemployment.