The skills and jobs that can’t be filled in South Africa

The Department of Home Affairs’ new draft critical skills list will help in addressing skills shortages in South Africa, and there are some notable additions, and omissions.

This is the view of Marisa Jacobs, director at specialised expatriation company Xpatweb, who said businesses are eagerly awaiting a new list as the previous list was last published in 2014.

She said that this proposed draft list has been in the pipeline since the release of the White Paper of International Migration for South Africa in 2017.

“The list is encouraging taken the extensive time and research the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) had put into the list and I believe the draft list will entice engagement by the business sector which is so needed when any new policies are implemented.

“There is often much said about how poor legislation is drafted and this list creates a real opportunity for employers to have their say and make their voice heard on the challenges they face in terms of critical skills shortages.

“The preliminary results from the 2021 Xpatweb Annual Critical Skills survey shows that 78% of employers struggle to recruit critically skilled resources and 74% indicate that an international search would help to find these resources.”

Surprises and omissions

Jacobs said that South Africa continues to experience a shortage of skills in the engineering and ICT fields. Conversely, popular occupations such as artisans, corporate general managers and foreign language speakers have been excluded and are no longer considered a critical skill according to this draft list, she said.

“It is particularly surprising to see that this list now includes media, marketing, financial and administrative roles, which one might expect to be easily filled in the country.

“It indicates that regardless of the type of occupation listed, South Africa simply does not have enough skilled employees to sustain business requirements.”

What’s changed? 

Below, Jacobs provided a summary of the most interesting new occupation not previously on the list; as well as the most popular occupations previously on the list, and now excluded on this draft list.

“We are nervous about the exclusion of corporate general manager – we often see multinationals setting up a footprint in South Africa or using SA as a springboard to expand into Africa, as well as local organisations looking to expand into international markets, who look for C-Suite executives with international experience to aid their business growth plans,” she said.

“A recent example hereof is the CEO appointment made by Pick ‘n Pay where they sighted international  experience as a major factor in their selection of Pieter Boone.”

Jacobs said that foreign-language speakers is also a major shortfall of the new list and artisans for specialist and strategic infrastructure projects we also expect to see much attention in terms of commentary from industry.

A good start

“The list is a good start and we strongly believe that the final list after public commentary will be a more well-rounded list as we have seen government taking into account inputs from industry and business,”  Jacobs said.

She added that the list enables the country to attract and retain foreign skills and compete globally for talent and remains a vital instrument to grow the economy through business.

“Our inputs will rely on the Annual Critical Skills survey data we have collected over the past few months with over 200 employers that have already participated.

“The survey remains open until 1 March to collect as much input as possible following the release of the draft list this week.”

Jacobs said that Xpatweb’s survey is well respected by government and has already impacted the draft list with occupations that would have been excluded such as quantity surveyor, registered nurses, fitter and turner, food and beverage scientist, network analyst and actuary, now re-included on the draft list based on our inputs to the DHET in their preparation of the draft list.

She said that preliminary results of the survey show high shortages across the below occupations which will form part of our submission:

  • Engineers;
  • ICT Specialist;
  • Foreign Language Speakers;
  • Media and Marketing Specialist;
  • Artisans;
  • C-suite Executives;
  •  Senior Financial Executives;
  • Health Care Professionals;
  • Science Professionals;
  • STEM Teachers.

Read: Here is the list of critical skills needed in South Africa

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