The one job skill that stands out in South Africa’s deeply scarred labour market

The Covid-19 pandemic is leaving deep scars in South Africa’s labour market, with jobs portal CareerJunction noting a massive drop in demand in activity in April.

It said that demand for labour decreased by 36% while job search activity decreased by 41% last month.

“Due to hefty economic restrictions during the nationwide level 5 – lockdown as well as extended school holidays and various public holidays, diminished recruitment activity was evident during April 2020,” it said.

“As a result, recruitment of skilled and highly skilled labour is increasingly challenging due to high levels of uncertainty in the current economic climate.”

Despite the significant dip in activity, CareerJunction highlighted that certain jobs skills are still being sought – with at least one proving to be exceptionally resilient to the current environment.

“Unlike many other professionals, software developers remain high in demand in the current economic climate,” CareerJunction said.

“Aside from decreased hiring activity during April, the recent uptake in vacancy posts could indicate a quick recovery in labour demand for programming skill.”

Hiring activity for middle and departmental managers decreased by 47% during April. However, recruitment activity for all levels of managerial skills remained prominent in the online job market.

Similarly, decreased demand levels for sales staff were also evident during April 2020. Nevertheless, sales representatives and sales consultants are at the forefront of labour demand for sales skills, the group said.

Sectors hit

With job activity down across the board, not all sectors were impacted equally, CareerJunction noted.

What demand is out there is still concentrated around IT, business and finance, while job seeker skills are weighted towards administration.

Demand for professionals in the building & construction, marketing and admin, office & support sectors seemed relatively stable during January and February 2020. However, hiring activity dropped during March and April.

April saw a notable decrease in jobs in the in architecture & engineering sector, sales and cleaning, maintenance & repair sectors.

Despite the recent downturn in labour demand during April, hiring activity for ICT professionals seems relatively stable, however.

Recruitment activity for medical & health professionals, business & management and manufacturing & assembly professionals has been decreasing since the onset of 2020.

Year-on-year, demand has weakened considerably across all three sectors, CareerJunction said.

Jobs at risk

Business for South Africa, a group of business organisations, has warned that 4 million jobs will be at risk and the economy could contract 16% this year if the easing of lockdown rules isn’t accelerated.

The government initially imposed a 21-day lockdown on March 27 to curb the spread of the virus, later extending it by two weeks.

Enforced by the police and military, it only allowed people to leave their homes to buy food, collect welfare grants and seek medical care – unless they provided essential services.

While the severity of the lockdown was adjusted from the maximum level 5 to level 4 on May 1, allowing commerce to resume, many businesses remain partially, or completely shut.

Read: 4 million jobs at risk as Ramaphosa further eases lockdown

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The one job skill that stands out in South Africa’s deeply scarred labour market