More jobs in April, but fewer low-skilled positions

Employment increased slightly in April, showing growth in high-skilled jobs, but declined in those requiring low skills, according to the latest Adcorp Employment Index released on Tuesday.

“Employment increased slightly, at an annual rate of 1,86%, during April,” Adcorp said in a statement.

However, unlike March when employment increased across-the-board, employment growth was “patchy and uneven” in April, the company’s labour economist Loane Sharp said.

Employment grew fastest in the high-skilled occupations—senior management, professionals, and technicians. It continued to decline in the low-skilled occupations, like domestic work.

South Africa had some 829 800 unfilled positions for high-skilled workers across a wide range of occupations, the index found.

“To a great extent, the shortage of highly-skilled workers has been artificially induced by the Immigrations Act (2002), which makes it exceedingly difficult for foreigners to find work in South Africa,” said Sharp.

“The most recent amendments to the Immigrations Act, promulgated in April 2011, prohibit the use of immigration agents and quota work permits, both of which have historically been widely used by South African companies seeking foreign skills.”

This had led to escalating wages for highly-skilled workers, in inflation-adjusted terms, by a “mammoth” 286,4% since 2000.

“It seems extraordinary that such an increase could largely have escaped attention, except that the increase would have been in the interests of skilled South African workers at the expense of the economy as a whole.”

Skills shortage
The categories most short of skills were senior management; professions like medicine, engineering, accounting and law; technical occupations; and agriculture.

Adcorp found a shortage of 432 100 technicians, 216 200 managers, and 178 400 professionals.

“In sharp contrast, a total of 967 600 elementary workers are in excess of the nation’s needs, as are 247 400 domestic workers.”

The skills shortage could limit South Africa’s long-term economic growth potential.

“Many existing activities are, given pervasive skills shortages, conducted inconsistently and, apparently, inexpertly, which is probably a more significant factor in South Africa’s low labour productivity by global standards than is widely thought.”

Many government skills development initiatives are based on an imprecise idea of the extent of skills shortages, not only in particular occupations, but in the economy as a whole, Adcorp said.

“Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) have consistently failed to produce credible estimates of skills shortages in their respective sectors, and probably for this reason the National Skills Fund has failed to disburse more than R3,5-billion in funds available for skills development.”

April’s index showed the informal sector was still growing faster than the formal sector.

The informal sector now employed 6,2-million people, which was 1,5-million—or 31%—more than in 1995.—Sapa


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