Engineering jobs in consulting sector in decline
But the demand for technical staff is rising
EMPLOYMENT in the consulting engineering industry declined by 4 percent year-onyear in the second half of last year to an estimated 23 349 jobs.
However, the number of firms looking for engineers increased to 44.9 percent from 32 percent in the previous six months and 40 percent in the last six months of 2015, according to the latest biannual economic and capacity survey conducted by Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa).
The survey report said there was also a notable increase in demand for other technical staff to 72 percent in the second half of last year from 38 percent in the previous six months and 4 percent in December 2015.
Fee earnings in the last six months of last year rose by 1 percent compared to the first half of the year but were lower than the expected 6 percent increase in the previous survey.
Survey respondents also expect earnings to drop by 7 percent in the first six months of this year compared to the previous six months.
Chris Campbell, the chief executive of Cesa, said yesterday that considering the trends in the industry, there were indications that earnings had reached an upper turning point with a softer growth outlook in the medium term for the industry.
“Business confidence levels first need to be restored to encourage higher levels of investment and kick start the beleaguered South African economy,” he said.
Campbell said service delivery, especially at municipal level, remained a critical burning issue, but the consulting engineering industry was threatened by incapacitated local and provincial governments.
As major clients to the industry, it was important that these institutions became more effective and proactive in identifying needs and priorities and more efficient in project implementation and management.
Payment remains a serious issue for the industry, with an estimated R6 billion in earnings currently outstanding after the 90-day period.
This is despite the percentage of fees outstanding for longer than 90 days as a percentage of total estimated income moderating to an average of 23.1 percent in December from 25 percent in the first six months of last year.
The survey report said foreign clients accounted for 61 percent of earnings outstanding for longer than 90 days, followed by the private sector (30 percent), local authorities (4 percent), state owned enterprises (2.2 percent), provincial government (1.4 percent) and central government (1 percent).
The public sector remains the most important client to the industry, with the combined contribution increasing to 67 percent in the last six months of last year from 58 percent in the previous six months. This was largely driven by the notable higher contribution by central government to 10 percent from 4 percent in the previous six months and 5.9 percent the second half of 2015.
The contribution to fee earnings by the private sector fell to 33 percent in the last six months of last year from 41 percent in the previous half year.
The survey report said this was the lowest contribution by the private sector since the June 2004 survey and well below the two-year and five-year average.