The 5 best and worst things about skills in South Africa

 ·21 Nov 2015
Maths fail

South Africa is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to developing, drawing and retaining a skilled work force – underpinned by a poor education system and low worker motivation.

This is according to the IMD World Competitiveness Center’s World Talent Report for 2015, which looks at a country’s ability to develop, attract and retain talented individuals.

The ranking is structured according to three factors: investment and development, appeal and readiness.

The first factor takes into account the investment in and development of home-grown talent, while appeal goes beyond the focus on the local labor force to incorporate the ability of a country to tap into the overseas talent pool.

The readiness factor looks at the context of the talent pool, considering the growth of the labor force and the quality of the skills available, the group said.

The 2015 ranking is led by Switzerland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and the Netherlands, with Finland, Germany, Canada, Belgium and Singapore completing the top 10.

South Africa

Overall, South Africa ranked 51st out of the 61 countries analysed, with a low investment and development score as well as a low level of readiness (55 and 54 out of 61, respectievly).

The only category in which South Africa came out as “okay” (34 out of 61) was in Appeal, where the cost of living and quality of life – as well as remuneration, and personal rights – made the country appealing to global talent.

South Africa’s ranking on the index has climbed five places from 2014, but remains far away from its best placement of 43rd in 2006.

According to the report, there are five criteria which South Africa performed the best in – however, the flip-side shows that, despite those good points, the country still struggles with many others.

5 best factors for talent in SA

  • A low cost of living makes the country appealing
  • Moderate success in attracting and retaining global talent
  • Effective personal income tax rate
  • The labour force is growing
  • Public expenditure on education is high

5 worst factors for talent in SA

  • There is low worker motivation
  • There is a shortage of skilled labour
  • The country has a poor education system – with a very high pupil-teacher ratio
  • Science education is not emphasised enough schools
  • There are insufficient apprenticeships available in the market

Worryingly, South Africa was ranked 3rd for its public expenditure on education (at 7% of total GDP), but ranked 58th for its education system, and its degree of emphasis on science in schools.

This shows that South Africa maintains one of the worst education systems in the world, despite billions of rands being pumped into the sector.

To put this into perspective, Denmark and Iceland are the only two countries to spend more on education – and both those countries run education systems in the upper reaches of the ranking (8th and 14th, respectively).

More on skills

Big shock in number of skilled jobs in South Africa

Shortage of skilled workers in South Africa

South Africa’s critical skills shortage

Skilled workers returning home

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