Loane Sharp is director of economic analysis at Prophet Analytics, South Africa's leading independent workforce optimization company. He is also a labour economist at Adcorp Holdings Limited, SA's largest diversified workforce management and business process outsourcing company which is also listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).
A press release by Adcorp in their latest Employment Index indicated that there are currently as many as 829 800 unfilled positions for high-skilled workers across a wide range of occupations in South Africa. The Index, reflecting employment in South Africa during April, also shows a negligible increase in jobs of just 1.86%, described by the company's Sharp as patchy and even.
Unpacking the findings of this month's Index, Sharp said "To a great extent, the shortage of highly-skilled workers has been artificially induced by the Immigrations Act (2002), which makes it exceedingly difficult for foreigners to find work in South Africa.The most recent amendments to the Immigrations Act, promulgated in April 2011, prohibit the use of immigration agents and quota work permits, both of which have historically been widely used by South African companies seeking foreign skills."
In addition to difficulties with obtaining work permits, xenophobia in recent years has discouraged many, particularly highly-skilled African immigrants, from venturing South in search of jobs.
As a result, Adcorp finds, South African citizens' wages in highly-skilled occupations have been unduly escalated, in inflation-adjusted terms, by a mammoth 286,4% since 2000.
Adcorp's research reveals that the highly-skilled categories suffering the greatest skilled shortages are:
• senior management;
• the professions – medicine, engineering, accounting and the law;
• technical occupations – specialised technicians and artisans; and
Adcorp warns that South Africa's skills shortage poses a significant limitation on the country's long-term economic growth potential, with viable economic opportunities often rendered thereby unviable.
"Many existing activities are, given pervasive skills shortages, conducted inconsistently and, apparently, inexpertly, which is probably a more significant factor in South Africa's low labour productivity by global standards than is widely thought," said Sharp.