The South African job market has seen some gradual improvements, amid the easing of lockdown regulations, but it is still one of the biggest casualties in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, says job search engine, Adzuna.
Analysts and economists have warned of mass job losses in the country in 2020 – upward of one million positions – as South Africa tries to recover from a deep recession and the effects of a persisting global pandemic.
National Treasury, which manages national economic policy, forecasts that the impact of the virus and resulting lockdown period could lead to job losses of between 690,000 and 1.79 million in the country.
According to data from Adzuna, South Africa has lost at least 40% of vacancies in the year 2020, to date. “Since some industries still cannot operate, the trend for certain vacancies stuck in the job loss chasm continues,” it said.
Plans to re-open restaurants for sit-down meals at the start of July resulted in a small boost to the SA hospitality industry. However, compared to January this year, vacancies are still at
least 16%-20% down.
“This means that it may well be a long and winding recovery road for South Africa,” it said.
Global job market gets back to business
Adzuna, which operates in 16 countries, noted that both Australia and the United States lost a third of all their vacancies throughout the first half of the year. Hiring patterns in both countries are slowly improving week on week.
“But the uncertainty around consumer behaviour and lockdown restrictions will probably slow down the rate of growth in these job markets,” it said.
It said that countries like France, Germany, Italy, and Poland have all started relaxing their lockdown restrictions, and the results and impact of these measures are somewhat mixed.
Poland is one of the only countries that made a complete “job advert recovery”, with vacancies now 3% higher than they were at the start of the year. For a country that only relaxed their lockdown restrictions a month ago, the uptick is relatively quick and inspiring, the group said.
France and Germany are two of the fastest-recovering European countries post-lockdown. In France, advertised vacancies are merely 2% less than compared to stats from January. Germany has 4% fewer job adverts than it did at the start of the year.
Italy, on the other hand, seems to be recovering much slower than France and Germany, Adzuna noted.
Similar to South Africa, the Italian job market features 18% fewer advertised vacancies compared to January. “Growth seems to be slow here due to their strict lockdown measures that lasted for several months, as well as being particularly hard-hit by the virus in the early months of 2020.”
Staggered recovery predicted for South Africa
Jesse Green, country manager for Adzuna SA, pointed out that the government does not offer significant support to the informal sector, which makes up a significant portion of employed people.
“This is a sector that employs up to 30% of South Africa’s workforce. The effect of lockdown has been severe for millions of South Africans. And as infection rates keep soaring, there is no relief in sight for the immediate future.”
At the end of June, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced the further easing of South Africa’s Level 3 lockdown restrictions. This would allow businesses like cinemas, casinos, theatres, hair salons and spas to open under extremely strict measures.
But recovering from the damage that was inflicted by months of lockdown will not be a speedy process, Green warned.
The majority of small businesses have had to implement salary cuts and retrenchments. Others simply did not make it through the lockdown and will never reopen again, he said.
Stats SA confirmed in June, that South Africa had hit a record unemployment rate of 30.1%.
Expectancies in the SA job market post-lockdown
“Before lockdown, we were slightly worried about robots taking over our jobs. The world is at the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Industry 4.0. But during a pandemic, issues
like these are easy to forget.
“The pandemic we are facing looks like it might be a catalyst to the revolution. It is the pandemic, not the robots, that is disrupting life in every country and bringing about massive change,” said Greeen.
“We’re expecting a growth from the job losses that have been experienced, but this depends entirely on the government opening up the economy fully, especially to international flights.”
According to Adzuna, some placements will be organically phased out, just as Industry 4.0 was set to do. But the impact from the Covid-19 crisis will spare the majority of positions within agriculture, finance, science, and technical sectors.
Essential jobs are safe, for now, said Green. “Professions that limit physical contact with others (and can be done from home) will likely also survive the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Jobs that involve a lot of physical contact with others, those that are not deemed essential, and those that are shift-based might not survive, he cautioned.
These include part-time placements within the restaurant and catering industries. Brick-and-mortar shops not offering products that are entirely needed, may find they must now sell online to avoid caving.
In May, Adzuna reported that cleaning vacancies (along with domestic worker positions) were down by 85%, and if the work-from-home trend holds up, there might not be a significant improvement in this sector any time soon.
New jobs created by the Covid-19 pandemic
New jobs are also being created, said Adzuna. By mid-June, there had been an exponential increase in remote working positions in South Africa. The number of Covid-19-related positions had also increased by over 200% since April.
The wearing of face masks has also become a socially mandated accessory, meaning that there is a new and rising demand for individuals that can produce face masks.
“Our educational landscape has also been transformed by the pandemic. Even before lockdown, distance education was something that a lot of South Africans were considering,” said Green.
Adzuna expects “Home-schooler” to become a sought-after role, possibly something for current teachers to shift to in their careers.
With the impact of the pandemic, there have been significant shifts to online platforms and tools for continual learning and skills development. And this shift will likely create even more
opportunities in the future.
With South Africa having record unemployment levels and the country bracing for the peak of the pandemic to hit in July and August, thousands (if not millions) of jobs will be lost before the rocky road to recovery can start, warned Green.
Upskilling and retraining oneself might open up countless doors of one’s work possibilities in life post-lockdown,” he said.
Jobs still available
Despite the low hiring activity, jobs are still available, said CareerJuntion recently, with specific skills still in high demand. These skills have been sought-after for a long time before the Covid-19 outbreak, and still remain so.
“Software developers are always in high in demand in the South African labour market. During May 2020, more than 1,000 vacancies were posted on www.careerjunction.co.za for professionals with programming skills,” CareerJunction said.
Despite a significant drop in hiring activity, middle and department managers face good employment prospects. Sales and store managers are particularly sought-after, the portal noted.
Demand for sales staff decreased significantly over the past 2 months. However, sales consultants are in constant demand, it said.