Nicolette Dirk, finance writer, Justmoney.co.za
Election watch: Despite new jobs being created for highly skilled professionals, these vacancies cannot be filled due to the lack of skills in South Africa.
This week Loane Sharp, labour market economist at Adcorp, highlighted that the biggest job losses occurred in permanent work, where 22,224 jobs were lost and temporary work, where 3,168 jobs were lost during January 2014.
During the speech delivered by the DA Parliamentary Leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko MP, during the State of the Nation Address debate in Parliament yesterday, she described unemployment as a cold reality for seven million people in South Africa.
“It is a reality for far too many South Africans because our government does not have the courage to break the stranglehold that the ANC's alliance partners in COSATU and the SACP have on labour policy. That is why President Zuma has only managed to create 561 000 out of the five million jobs he promised in 2009. Just one job out of every ten promised, “said Mazibuko.
She added that this was why there are 1.4 million more unemployed South Africans today than on the day the President took office five years ago.
Where were the biggest job losses?
Sharp said the most significant job losses were experienced in the manufacturing (-4.7%) and construction sectors (-9.9%).
Sharp added that the skills shortage is a function of both demand and supply factors. Demand factors relate to the quantity of jobs available, whereas supply factors relate to the quantity of suitable applicants.
He attributed South Africa’s skills shortage to emigration of high-skilled workers, immigration restrictions for high-skilled foreigners and a dysfunctional education system.
“At present, there are an estimated 470 000 vacancies in the private sector, which are positions that could be filled almost immediately if the skills were available.
More than half (52%) of these positions are in management, and the remainder (37%) are largely professional positions in accounting, law, medicine, engineering and finance,” said Sharp.
South Africa has a surplus of unemployed graduates with an estimated 344 000 unemployed people with degrees, diplomas and certificates.
“Although a tertiary qualification remains the most successful indicator of finding employment (90% of graduates are employed), the remainder fail to find employment because their qualifications do not match those sought by employers,” said Sharp.
He argued that tertiary institutions continue to produce arts, humanities, social science and mid-level professional graduates (i.e. teachers and nurses), whereas employers seek managers and high-level professional graduates (i.e. accountants, lawyers, doctors and engineers).
How could government improve skills?
According to Sharp, the South African government has found it exceedingly difficult to deliver education and training outcomes that are appropriate to the South African economy’s requirements. South Africa ranks consistently poorly not only in terms of maths and science scores but of education scores generally.
“Unfortunately the pervasive ideology of the South African government is to increase government-provided education and training options and restrict private education and training.
Until the government can curb wasteful public expenditure in education, loosen the teaching unions’ stranglehold over the education system, and reform its poorly functioning industry training bodies, South Africa’s skills shortage is likely to grow,” said Sharp.