CityPress - - Business - DE­WALD VAN RENSBURG de­wald.vrens­burg@city­

The bias to­wards “skilled” work in service sec­tors makes it un­likely that South Africa’s un­em­ploy­ment lev­els will be re­duced in the near fu­ture, the In­sti­tute of Race Re­la­tions (IRR) said this week.

The think-tank re­leased a com­par­i­son of current labour sta­tis­tics with fig­ures from 2001, to demon­strate the trend to­wards service work re­quir­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion.

Be­tween 2001 and 2017, the em­ployed pop­u­la­tion of South Africa rose by 3.6 mil­lion to 16.1 mil­lion. The fastest-grow­ing cat­e­gory of jobs was what Stats SA de­scribes as pro­fes­sion­als.

Em­ploy­ment un­der this cat­e­gory grew 133% in the 17 years, to to­tal about 900 000, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Quar­terly Labour Force Sur­vey.

Al­most all peo­ple em­ployed un­der this cat­e­gory had ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion.

In ab­so­lute terms, jobs un­der the man­agers cat­e­gory grew by much more over the past 17 years and this was the fore­most con­trib­u­tor to the over­all in­crease in em­ploy­ment.

Jobs de­scribed as man­age­rial grew by 121% to

1.5 mil­lion in the 17 years.

The skills re­quire­ments in this cat­e­gory are some­what lower, with less than half of em­ployed man­agers hav­ing ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion.

The rest had mostly com­pleted high school, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics.

While the fastest growth in em­ploy­ment is in these skilled oc­cu­pa­tions, the growth in ele­men­tary oc­cu­pa­tions has been al­most equal to man­age­rial ones in numer­i­cal terms, off a larger base. Ele­men­tary jobs in­clud­ing brick­lay­ing and street sweep­ing and re­quire lit­tle to no train­ing or spe­cialised skills.

About 20% of work­ers in ele­men­tary jobs have ma­tric, but the vast ma­jor­ity have not com­pleted high school.

The next ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to em­ploy­ment in the past two decades has been service and sales jobs. Here 40% of work­ers have ma­tric.

One step up the skills lad­der, 50% of all cler­i­cal work­ers have ma­tric.

Only 15% of do­mes­tic work­ers have ma­tric and the vast ma­jor­ity did not get fur­ther than Grade 10.

Gabriela Mackay, au­thor of the IRR note, said in an ac­com­pa­ny­ing press re­lease that the chang­ing na­ture of labour de­mand in terms of skills has ac­com­pa­nied a shift from man­u­fac­tur­ing and min­ing to ser­vices.

“The change in struc­ture means that there is no longer a large, low and semi­skilled sec­tor ca­pa­ble of ab­sorb­ing the bulk of the labour force lack­ing the skills and ed­u­ca­tion to find jobs in the skilled sec­tor,” she said.

An­other in­ter­est­ing long-term devel­op­ment in South Africa’s labour mar­ket is that the in­for­mal sec­tor has shrunk sig­nif­i­cantly since 2001.

Back then, al­most 27% of em­ploy­ment was in­for­mal. Now that pro­por­tion is 17.1%. This re­flects the ap­par­ent evis­cer­a­tion of the in­for­mal trad­ing sec­tor, which fell from 2 mil­lion jobs to 1.14 mil­lion jobs be­tween 2001 and 2017.

Over the pe­riod, for­mal trade jobs grew by al­most the same num­ber – from 1.46 mil­lion to 2.12 mil­lion.

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