An economic growth rate of around 0.5% – together with legislative and technological disruptions – do not bode well for the increasing number of unemployed in South Africa. The latest statistics released by Stats SA reflect the highest unemployment rates in 11 years with a 29.1% narrow unemployment rate. This percentage does not include the unemployed persons who have all but given up looking for employment and, if the latter are included, we move towards a 40% unemployment rate. On an age-based differentiation, 15- to 24-year-olds experience double the unemployment rate of 55-to-64 year olds.

How will the social partners in South Africa respond?

“We have already seen COSATU pushing for s77* socio-economic protest action in this regard,” says John Botha: HR expert and COO of Global Business Solutions. “In addition, they are calling for legislative amendments that will force employers in the private sector to only retrench if they face liquidation and not just to boost profits.”

On the other hand, business need to remain relevant and stay ahead of the curve which requires re-skilling, up-skilling and – in certain instances – rightsizing. Government have introduced a number of measures to drive youth employment including the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative, the Jobs Fund and various tax concessions as well as B-BBEE amendments.

“The reality,” concludes Botha, “is that what is needed now is collaboration, solutions design and then agile delivery.” Organisations and educational institutions need to capacitate their employees and learners with the skills required of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, specifically emotional intelligence and digital skills as these competencies will allow for mobility between projects, jobs and careers. Legislation is not aligned to the realities that business encounters in the current workplace and steps need to be taken to ensure convergence of statute, skills and resources to align this with market demands.

*Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act gives workers the right to take part in protest action to promote or defend their socio-economic interest and be protected against dismissal and other disciplinary action.