Shortage of skilled workers a major risk in South Africa

International financial services provider Allianz has published its global risk barometer for 2022, surveying 2,650 risk experts in 89 countries and territories about the biggest risks facing their businesses in the coming year.

While ongoing issues such as ransomware attacks, data breaches or major IT outages continue to threaten businesses, for the first time since the survey started, the shortage of a skilled workforce has been ranked a key risk globally.

Notably, skills shortages were named as the eighth biggest risk in South Africa right now – with businesses warning that it has rarely been more challenging attracting and retaining workers.

“As economies reopen around the world after lockdowns, reports of employers being unable to find the workers they need have become increasingly common,” Allianz said.

“Covid-19 has been hugely disruptive to the labour market, exacerbating existing issues caused by older employees retiring and the already changing needs and expectations of potential employees, while bringing new challenges such as skilled workers who want flexibility over when and where they work and who are prepared to leave existing jobs to achieve this.”

As of December 2020, the global talent shortage amounted to 40 million skilled workers worldwide. By 2030, global consulting firm Korn Ferry estimates that this could reach more than 85 million people, resulting in the loss of trillions of dollars in economic opportunity for companies, Allianz said.

Knowledge-intensive industries such as financial services, technology, media, telecommunications and manufacturing are among the industries that are predicted to be most affected, while survey respondents ranked talent shortage as a top-five risk in the following sectors:

  • Engineering;
  • Construction;
  • Real estate;
  • Public service;
  • Healthcare;
  • Transportation.

This aligns with data published by Old Mutual in November which shows South Africa faces a ‘ticking time bomb’ as more skilled workers quit their jobs as part of a ‘great resignation’ and companies are forced to deal with increasingly high churn.

Remchannel, Old Mutual’s reward-management platform, said that higher staff turnover and accrued leave costs could be a ticking time bomb for corporates in the country.

Speaking at a recent webinar, René Richter, managing director of Remchannel, reported that staff turnover has increased by 16% across all sectors.

Almost 69% of remuneration survey participants – namely HR and reward professionals – indicated that they struggled to attract new or retain their existing talent.

“Whilst there are various reasons for labour turnover such as retirement, termination of contracts, and downsizing, the October 2021 Salary and Wage Movement survey revealed that the leading reason an employee left employment between April and October 2021 was due to resignation (60%), suggesting aspects of the ‘Great Resignation’ trend, which started in the US, where millions of people, from frontline workers to senior executives, voluntarily called time on their jobs,” said Richter.


Read: 6 things killing small businesses in South Africa right now

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Shortage of skilled workers a major risk in South Africa