SA has an unemployment rate of more than 27% with young people making up the majority of the jobless. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
SA has an unemployment rate of more than 27% with young people making up the majority of the jobless. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
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Policymakers should act now to prepare for changes brought on by automation and technological developments as new trends show a widening gap in available skills versus demand.

The most recent Job Opportunities and Unemployment report released by the department of labour paints a bleak picture for low-skilled unemployed people, with only 36% of the total job vacancies advertised in 2017/2018 requiring people with qualifications below grade 12 certificates. 

These people were likely to remain unemployed in the long run as they do not possess the skills needed in the labour market. SA has an unemployment rate of more than 27% with young people making up the majority of the jobless.

“The skills mismatch will probably accelerate, worsening the imbalance between skills supply and demand as the new markets rise and the nature of work shifts,” reads the report.

The report recommends that educational institutions must “redesign” the curriculum to encourage critical thinking and creativity while fast-tracking the acquisition of digital and science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills to match demand.

“Reform in SA’s education system may possibly provide the only sustainable solution. It is important to reduce the number of poorly educated people by improving school resources and quality of education,” the report says.

SA has had a problem of oversupply of unskilled labour and undersupply of qualified and skilled labour for decades. In September the cabinet approved the publication of the white paper on science and technology meant to guide the country’s response to the global shifts towards high tech and digitalisation.

Job losses were also not letting up, with the report showing that 661,432 jobs were lost. Unemployment insurance claims rose in 2017/2018 as a result of dismissals and retrenchments. The trade sector accounted for close to 45% of the claims, followed by agriculture, manufacturing and construction.

Once more young people were at a disadvantage, with the Unemployment Insurance Fund claims data pointing to the highest percentage of claims from people aged 25 to 24 at 36% in 2017/2018.

Another worrying trend was the continuous decline in advertised vacancies from the first to the fourth quarter of the financial year under review.

“Sales and marketing managers were occupations in high demand followed by the software developers, shop sales assistants and retail and wholesale trade managers. Software developer’s occupations were demanded in the professional occupational group,” reads the report.

The report found that 39% of all advertised vacancies captured on the department’s database were targeting job seekers with degrees or diplomas, followed by people with a grade 12 qualification at 25%. The report is released annually.

mahlakoanat@businesslive.co.za