Matching the Mismatching Skills Gap



As the world celebrates International Workers' Day, on 01 May, Afrika Tikkun (AT) emphasizes the importance of skills development and adaptability in today's rapidly evolving economy. Afrika Tikkun calls on workers to take charge of their skills development to remain relevant and valuable contributors to both their households and the economy.



South Africa’s labour workforce shows a skills mismatch and, in 2019, it was reported that South Africa has a skills mismatch of more than 50% and the lowest productivity in labour workforce compared to 30 other countries.

According to the Global Competitiveness Index for 2017-2018, as reported by the World Economic Forum, South Africa ranked 61st out of 137 countries in terms of its ability to develop, attract and retain talent. South Africa faces several economic and labour market contextual issues that impact its overall development and stability.

Also, the World Bank forecasted that South Africa’s economic growth has been sluggish, averaging around 1% annually over recent years. Factors such as policy uncertainty, corruption, inadequate infrastructure and electricity supply constraints have hampered private sector investment and stifled economic expansion.

Insufficient progress in structural reforms and addressing governance issues have also impacted the confidence of investors.

In addition, South Africa has a complex labour market regulatory framework, which includes minimum wage legislation, collective bargaining and strict labour market entry and exit regulations. While these mandates aim to protect workers’ rights and promote social justice, they can also create barriers to employment, especially for small businesses and low-skilled workers.

This result is exacerbated in an era where technological advancements and automation are gradually transforming the nature of work.

The World Economic Forum’s latest “Future of Jobs” report shows that 23% of all jobs globally will change by 2027, noting that job losses are set to outpace growth in employment opportunities in the short-term. According to the report, the adoption of technology and increased digital access will result in an anticipated 69 million new jobs being created and 83 million jobs being eliminated.

Pointedly, Afrika Tikkun’s Group CEO, Dr. Onyi Nwaneri, underscores the urgency for workers to proactively upskill themselves to meet the evolving demands of the job market.

In 2023, Afrika Tikkun, in collaboration with Microsoft, hosted business leaders from South Africa’s largest corporations where the country’s unemployment problem and skills mismatch were further probed and unpacked.

During the dialogue, held under the theme “Skills Gap, Youth Employability and Employment”, industry leaders also identified a critical issue that is hindering progress in South Africa’s skill development ecosystem: a lack of coordination and collaboration between employers and those who provide young people with skills.

They warned that this lack of collaboration is allowing the skills gap to grow wider. The consensus among industry players is that harnessing the power of supply chain interactions and industry-wide collaboration is paramount in addressing the pressing skills gap challenges faced by the nation.

They also committed to tackling employment challenges as a collective.

Those who want to end the cycle of youth unemployment may need a change in attitude and perspective to get to the bottom of its skills gap challenges that continue to feed into rising unemployment.

In the face of a youth unemployment rate of 66% and declining productivity numbers, Dr. Nwaneri urges job seekers and employed workers alike to embrace self-empowerment through skills acquisition. By equipping more South Africans with relevant skills and access to economic opportunities.

On International Workers' Day, Afrika Tikkun reaffirms its commitment to empowering the youth, who are our future workers, through skills development programmes, fostering a more resilient and prosperous economy for all.

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