The hopelessness of finding a job in South Africa – even if you have a degree

 ·2 Oct 2022

South Africa’s labour market does not have enough demand for a person with a matric certificate and, in some cases, a university degree, says financial services firm PwC, noting that about one in ten people who are unemployed in the country have a tertiary education.

“A tertiary qualification is no guarantee for finding a job, even in a country like ours where employers are finding it difficult to hire skilled workers,” the group said.

PwC’s latest Economic Outlook for South Africa revealed that 80% of unemployed South Africans have some sort of secondary schooling or completed matric and 10% of unemployed people have a tertiary qualification.

During the second quarter of this year, there were 742,000 unemployed tertiary educated graduates, it said – three times more than seen after the global financial crisis.

While it would be tempting to lay the blame for this situation at the feet of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic turmoil it brought, PwC said that the figures were not really hampered significantly by Covid-19, and the number of unemployed persons with a tertiary qualification has been steadily increasing over the past decade.

“This can be disheartening to students who spend a lot of money and time on getting a degree with the aim of securing stable and meaningful employment,” said PwC.

Skills mismatch

A key explanation for this phenomenon boils down to South Africa having a severe skills mismatch among graduates.

With reference to the World Economic Forums Global Competitiveness Report, PwC noted that South Africa creates hundreds of thousands of high school, college and university graduates every year, but their skill sets are not competitive in a global context.

PwC said it is up to the universities themselves to make graduates more employable. Some institutions have already started to review curricula to improve job readiness and entrepreneurship skills.

South Africa’s youth are also facing the fact that even if they were to acquire a degree, it could not be in demand, the group said.

Popular job aggregator, CareerJunction recently reported that in-demand jobs that are likely to grow in popularity are primarily in the fields of finance, sales, IT, management and manufacturing.

The group noted that the following positions are set to be in high demand:

  • Cloud engineer
  • Data scientist
  • Development and IT operations (DevOps) Engineer
  • E-commerce manager
  • Customer success staff
  • Data engineer
  • Digital marketer
  • SalesforceTM developer
  • Wellness consultant
  • Renewable energy specialist

All the above-listed positions require some sort of education beyond high school. However, PwC said that skills can also be refined or expanded in the private sector once employment is secured.

The firm said that private companies could also make it easier for people to get more skilled and maintain employment through upskilling.

“Government, businesses, and education providers must work together to build a strong and interconnected ecosystem committed to a comprehensive upskilling agenda,” it said.

Economic prowess

According to PwC, South Africa’s long-term economic outlook does not have the potential to significantly reduce the country’s unemployment rate.

GDP growth has decreased in the wake of global disability, high inflation and load shedding. PwC expects economic growth to converge around 1.5% per annum – meaning employment will probably grow at a rate of 1.2% from 2024 onwards.

“Based on this relationship, we estimate that employment will grow by nearly 200,000 per year resulting in the employment of 16.3 million adults by the end of the decade.”

Read: Government scrambles to stop South Africa’s next big crisis

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