A critical skills survey conducted by expatriation and international mobility sector specialist firm, Xpatweb shows several sectors in the economy are experiencing critical skill shortages.
The sectors experiencing the most pressure include information and technology, engineering, finance and health.
It comes at a time when the latest unemployment statistics released by Statistics SA for the second quarter of this year paints a very dark picture of the state of South Africa’s labour market.
According to the statistics there has been an increase of 1.4 percentage points in unemployment from the first quarter of this year, from 27.6%, to 29% in the second quarter of 2019.
This means that almost seven million people are unemployed and just over 16 million people have a job, the data showed.
The Critical Skills list is currently under review by the Department of Home Affairs and a new list is expected to be released before the end of 2019 for public comment, Xpatweb said.
Some reports have put the date at early 2020. The list will be used to determine whether a foreigner may apply for a visa to live and work in the country.
An Xpatweb survey shows that the country is currently in desperate need of the following skills:
- ICT Specialist
- Senior Financial Executives
- Health Sector
- Executive Managers
- Specialists & Academics
- Mining Executives
- Risk Managers
- Foreign Language Speakers
IT specialists and engineers remain top of the list of skills that are most difficult to find, it said. Occupations in high demand in terms of the health sector, artisans, finance and ICT specialist have all increased this year.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Africa has an average of one doctor and one nurse per 1,000 patients. Hospitals are crowded, but understaffed, as shortages of skilled professionals in this sector continues to be an issue, the company said.
“IT Specialists are becoming a highly sought-after resource in the wake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR),” it said. In a report published by the World Economic Forum over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed over the next five years.
By 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have brought us advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology and genomics.
Government revealed in 2017 that South Africa has a shortfall of about 40,000 qualified artisans. This forced it to import skilled artisans from various countries to complete time sensitive projects.
The Xpatweb survey results show that this still remains an issue, with 14.15% of the respondents indicating that it is difficult to find skilled artisans. This represents an increase of 45% from last year.
“It is a growing challenge worldwide, affecting industries from ICT to manufacturing to finance, with jobseekers lacking the required skills, and those with the desired capabilities and experience, in high demand.
“Employers have to compete locally and internationally for skilled talent which increasingly places pressure on organisations,” Xpatweb said.
The group’s survey also showed that 62% of participants blamed the visa process as the greatest prohibitor to recruiting internationally. However, several visa-related reforms are on the cards, which is in line with president Cyril Ramaphosa’s Economic Stimulus and Recovery Plan.
In order to tackle the skills shortage in SA, it is important that policies such as the Skills Development Plan and the Skills Development Act support job creation and economic growth. It is equally vital that organisations contribute to building local skills, through increased training and development and putting in place succession planning at executive level, Xpatweb said.
Reports from emigration assistance groups and local banks show that South Africa has seen a sharp rise in the number of skilled people emigrating.
According to Marisa Jacobs, director at immigration specialists Xpatweb, many of these South Africans are leaving for the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia with highly sought after skills.
She said that the company’s recently released annual Critical Skills Survey highlights the top critical skills that employers struggle to recruit within local borders and that have striking similarities between the jobs that are in demand in popular emigration destinations.