Slip­pery road of class, race

Sunday World - - Opinion - GLENDA KRUSS

ETTING hired in South Africa can be a se­ri­ous chal­lenge given the coun­try’s un­em­ploy­ment rate of 26.6% and a trend to­wards de­clin­ing em­ploy­ment in the for­mal non-agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

There are many pos­si­ble routes job seek­ers can take as they seek to en­ter the work­force. Some are clearly marked out, fa­cil­i­tat­ing a smooth tran­si­tion. Oth­ers are not very clearly marked and are fraught with dif­fi­culty, lead­ing to un­cer­tainty and of­ten sig­nif­i­cant per­sonal hard­ship.

In­di­vid­u­als and groups ac­cess the labour mar­ket from dif­fer­ent points of de­par­ture, de­pend­ing on their skills, oc­cu­pa­tions, age, race and gen­der. There are many labour mar­kets in which di­verse fac­tors such as geog­ra­phy (ru­ral, ur­ban), de­gree of for­mal­ity (for­mal, in­for­mal) and po­lit­i­cal econ­omy (cen­tre, pe­riph­ery) play a defin­ing role.

We com­pared in­sights on this di­ver­sity and com­plex­ity across a set of re­search projects con­ducted by the Labour Mar­ket In­tel­li­gence Part­ner­ship. What we found was that so­cial net­works and in­equal­ity mat­ter a lot in the world of job seek­ers. This sug­gests that there is a need for for­mal pub­lic mech­a­nisms to en­sure that there’s a fairer dis­tri­bu­tion of in­for­ma­tion for peo­ple look­ing for work.

In­equal­ity in higher ed­u­ca­tion

A re­cent study traced the widely di­ver­gent jour­neys of grad­u­ates from two very dif­fer­ent uni­ver­si­ties in South Africa. It fol­lowed 469 grad­u­ates from Rhodes Univer­sity and 742 from Univer­sity of Fort Hare through their de­gree pro­grammes and into the labour mar­ket.

Most of the Rhodes grad­u­ates were white, and were more likely to have come from higher in­come homes and at­tended elite schools. Most of the Fort Hare grad­u­ates were black and were more likely than their Rhodes coun­ter­parts to be the first in their fam­i­lies to at­tend univer­sity.

The study found that the dif­fer­ent groups used very dif­fer­ent job search meth­ods. For Rhodes grad­u­ates the most com­mon path of find­ing em­ploy­ment was through per­sonal net­works (30%). Fort Hare grad­u­ates re­lied pri­mar­ily on news­pa­per ad­ver­tise­ments (36%). The study con­cluded: This find­ing speaks vol­umes about the na­ture of links to the mar­ket and about the per­pet­u­a­tion of past sources of in­equal­ity in ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment.

An­other study of pub­lic at­ti­tudes to work found that work-seek­ers used a range of ways to ac­cess the labour mar­ket. Ninety per­cent of those sur­veyed said that so­cial net­works were the most fre­quent” way to look for work.

This trend isn’t unique to South Africa. Re­search on job search­ing glob­ally shows that for a while per­sonal net­works have been recog­nised as an ef­fi­cient tool to use when look­ing for em­ploy­ment.

The study on at­ti­tudes to work and un­em­ploy­ment also found that job seek­ers from ru­ral ar­eas were more likely to rely on in­for­mal net­works, talk­ing to rel­a­tives and friends.

It notes that the in­ac­ces­si­bil­ity of in­for­ma­tion about va­can­cies sup­plied through for­mal sources is a bar­rier to find­ing em­ploy­ment.

How do for­mal pub­lic sys­tems con­trib­ute?

How then do for­mal pub­lic em­ploy­ment ser­vices in South Africa mea­sure up, to pro­mote tran­si­tions to the labour mar­ket?

A study done in 2015 looked at em­ployer in­ter­ac­tion with a gov­ern­ment-funded em­ploy­ment ser­vice that matches job seek­ers to employers.

The re­search found that job seek­ers used a di­ver­sity of search meth­ods.

Sub­scrib­ing com­pa­nies filled 56% of all their va­can­cies with work seek­ers reg­is­tered on the sys­tem. But the ser­vice is ham­pered by a range of ob­sta­cles, in­clud­ing poor in­fra­struc­ture, which leads to in­com­plete records be­ing kept, and net­work fail­ures that make the sys­tem painfully slow. This af­fects its re­li­a­bil­ity. The bot­tom line So­cial net­works re­main a de­fault method of job search for many South Africans across the labour mar­ket spec­trum. But the abil­ity to ac­cess so­cial net­works is shaped un­equally by the ed­u­ca­tion, class and race back­ground.

For job seek­ers liv­ing in poor ru­ral ar­eas so­cial net­works are less help­ful.

To pro­mote more ef­fi­cient job search strate­gies at all lev­els, the qual­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity of for­mal labour mar­ket in­for­ma­tion needs to be raised sig­nif­i­cantly.

Dr Glenda Kruss is a re­searcher at the Hu­man Sciences Re­search Coun­cil. Source: http://the­con­ver­sa­

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