These are the major reasons South Africans are struggling to get jobs

A research report by MasterStart has found that just 23.8% of working South Africans believe their current skills will keep them employed in 10 years’ time.

With the burgeoning Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerating the pace of change in the world of work, most South Africans are looking to ‘future-proof’ their careers. And for 95%, lifelong learning is the key to retaining relevancy.

Based on a survey with a sample group of over 1,000 people across varying demographics and industries, the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer uncovered that – while artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) are on the radar – other factors are currently seen as more immediate factors impacting job retention.

“Our workforce is clearly concerned, but positively, our research revealed that people are aware that frequent upskilling and reskilling will aid them in remaining relevant and employable,” said Andrew Johnston, CEO of MasterStart.

“In a country where unemployment is an ongoing issue, it’s imperative that we empower people to future-proof their careers by making lifelong learning opportunities continuously accessible in order to bridge critical capability gaps and compete with global standards.”

Eight out of 10 respondents believed the job market to be tougher now than it was 10 years ago.

Why is it perceived as so tough? Both macro and micro factors were listed, including the political and economic climate, increased competition, fewer employment opportunities and rapid change.

The core reasons cited were:

  • Spread of corruption
  • The political climate
  • Debtors not paying
  • Too many applicants but not enough jobs
  • People hanging onto their roles for longer
  • Bribery and corruption in getting qualifications and jobs
  • A larger population
  • Less work (according to Stats SA, 83,000 formal jobs were lost from Sept 2016 to Sept 2017)
  • Retrenchment
  • Demographics (race/gender/region/age) and qualifications and experience were all seen as opportunity-limiting factors

Respondents also cited rapid change and lots of pressure as barriers, namely that companies are expecting more for less, while rapid technological change is forcing businesses to invest in technology continuously.

They also pointed to frequent management changes, while people competing against tech, can also jeopardise jobs.

And while age was referenced most frequently as a barrier to future employment – especially for those over 50 – in the 18-24 and 25-34 year old brackets, lack of skills was seen as the most prohibiting factor.

People in IT and tech felt most secure about their skills, the survey found. Collectively, just under half the sample felt they’d been held back by lack of skills. 30% of participants in IT and tech were completely confident their skills would survive the ten year test. Those in other industries were noticeably less secure.

Close to a quarter of respondents felt AI had already impacted their industry, but just under 20% said they were completely comfortable sharing their workload with robots or processes automated by AI. Surprisingly, 18-24 year-olds had the highest level of unease about this.

Lifelong learning is the best way to remain relevant

Whilst the barometer found a workforce in a somewhat sombre mood, positively, people were putting plans in place to learn further to acquire the skills they need.

As many as 80% of respondents are planning to study in the future, with self-enrichment being the primary motivator (66%), followed by the aspiration to get further and be promoted (54%) and the desire to keep abreast with industry-related changes (41%).

Just over half (58%) of people favoured online learning, and a number had already completed courses.


Read: These are the most in-demand job skills in South Africa right now

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These are the major reasons South Africans are struggling to get jobs