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Skills Shortages and Unemployment in South Africa: Part 1

Stats SA has published its latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2022, placing the official unemployment rate at 34,5%. The unemployment rate was 35,3% in the previous reporting period, and has recovered 0,8 of a percentage point. The 34,5% remains high when compared to data of other countries. Data from the professional services firm PwC show that South Africa is expected to generate almost two million jobs by 2030, but that this is not nearly enough jobs to absorb the number of people entering the workforce. While South Africa is facing this issue, skills shortages were named as the eighth biggest risk in South Africa, with businesses warning that it has been more and more challenging to attract and retain employees.

Skills shortages are driven by numerous factors, ranging from the adoption of new technologies to changing employee needs, says Lyndy van den Barselaar, Managing Director at ManpowerGroup SA, a global workforce solutions company. The issue is twofold: firstly, the South African workforce does not contain the critical skills needed within the changing environment, and secondly the organisations’ brand and culture do not attract the necessary talent. A survey conducted by Remchannel, where about 69% of remuneration survey participants were HR and reward professionals, indicated that they struggled to attract new or retain their existing talent.

Particularly, there is a continued shortage of critical skills in nursing, engineering and the information technology field, says listed workforce solutions company, Adcorp. Similarly, McKinsey stated that the traditional workforce is shifting and by 2030 there could be a 20% increase in demand for managers, technology specialists and health professionals while manual roles are likely to decrease steeply. Technology and humanity capabilities are the most in-demand skills. Soft skills, such as adaptability, communication and teamwork are skills that could not be easily replaced by automation. “More than half of all workers (58%) need new skills to get their jobs done, the skills revolution is in full force,” said the ManpowerGroup executive.

With all that being said, companies should find innovative approaches to overcome these challenges. They will have to create opportunities to fill employment gaps and attract sufficient talent to prepare for the changes that lie ahead. Employers should create a workforce that is capable of thriving within the current circumstances.

So how do we address this problem?

Practical ways of overcoming these obstacles are by creating the talent you need from the inside, developing an outstanding employee value proposition (EVP), developing employer branding strategies and creating a culture that focuses on the employee experience.

Part two of this article will discuss these strategies to combat skills shortages in further detail and how Joubert & Associates can assist you in doing just that.

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