Unemployment: Hope only for the highly skilled

The headline proclaimed: ‘Weakened rand leads to conservative hiring’, (Engineering News, 08 March 2016), and 8 percent of respondents to Manpower SA’s second-quarter Employment Outlook Survey projected a decrease in staffing levels for the next quarter (April to June 2016) while 77 percent projected no change. On the other hand, 13 percent suggest they will be increasing their staffing levels.

The increases expected in mining, manufacturing and construction are particularly welcome. The sting, however, is in the tail. Discussing the opportunities for employment in mining and quarrying, Manpower SA MD, Lyndy van den Barselaar, says that these will be ‘especially for those consultants who specialise in sustainability and environmental conservation.’ (Engineering News)

In other words, most of the 13 percent increase in hiring will be in highly specialised areas. Thousands of Matriculants and new graduates will continue to swell the unemployment ranks. We desperately need the political will to move away from improving the lives of the employed to a determined focus on more jobs. Everyone talks about job creation, but little is done to focus intently on the practicalities of getting more people into employment. The government challenges the private sector to action and focusses strongly on training and skills development but not on job creation. As a result, the ranks of the unemployed continue to swell with more men and women who are more qualified but who remain, nonetheless, unemployed.

The unions might not like it, and I am not suggesting dismantling our labour laws, but understanding how labour laws discourage employment and making adjustments accordingly is imperative. This is particularly true for SMMEs and entrepreneurs for whom the administrative burden from SETAs, Employment Equity and B-BBEE legislation alone is horrendous.

What do you suggest? (Practical solutions rather than mere gripes, please.)

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Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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