Skip to main content

News and Media

New and Media


Press Releases

15 June 2016

Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary 

2. Introduction: 
2.1 South African employment context 
2.2 Global context 
2.2.2 CHINA 

3. Why employers are unable to access adequate talent 
3.1 The job posting 
3.2 The application process 
3.3 Employer brand 

4. Why job-seekers struggle to secure work 
4.1 The job search 
4.2 CVs 
4.3 Interviews 
4.4 Skills 
4.5 Positive Attitude
4.6 Experience 
4.7 Expectations 

5. Recommendations 
5.1 Finding the balance 
5.2 Employers 
5.3 Employees 
5.4 What can we do? 

6. References 

7. Authors 

1. Executive Summary

Due to weakening economies globally, South Africa - and many other parts of the world - are experiencing significantly high levels of unemployment. While this has resulted in a massive amount of job-seekers unsuccessfully searching for work, a number of industries are still reporting that there is a considerable lack of adequate talent available in the market.

This report will contextualise the above employment catch 22 from a global and a South African perspective, and touch on the situation as it pertains to our major trading partners.

The report also delves into some of the factors contributing to the employment catch 22, with particular emphasis on South Africa and the considerations which candidates, employers and government should keep in mind when addressing the issue.

In concluding the report, Quest provides a number of suggested remedies that both employers and job-seekers can utilise to address the issues they are facing with a discussion on how they, and government, can work together to find a solution – assisting job-seekers in securing employment; businesses in becoming globally competitive; and bolstering the economic growth of the country. 

2. Introduction:

2.1 South African employment context

According to Statistics South Africa, the country has an unemployment rate of 24.3% 4th quarter, 2015) averaging at an excessively high 25.27% from 2000 until 2015. This is one of the highest in the world, according to data by the International Monetary Fund.

Despite this high rate of unemployment, there are large numbers of unfilled positions. Adcorp labour economist, Loane Sharp, revealed that in 2013, there were as many as many as 829 800 unfilled positions for highly skilled workers across a wide range of occupations in South Africa.

In his 2014 State of the Nation Address President Zuma outlined the target of six million job opportunities by 2019. In his 2015 Address, he stated that a total of 850 000 work opportunities had been created at that point. Although many job opportunities have been created, this has had little impact on addressing the drastic level of unemployment in the country.

Reasons for this  state of affairs can be found both at macro and micro levels of the economy. These range from the country’s sluggish economic growth and poor standards of education and training to the day-to-day technical aspects of interaction between the employer and job-seekers and a mismatch of skills acquired by youth at tertiary institutions and the skills required by the market.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan revealed in his 2016 Budget Speech that Treasury expects growth of the South African economy to come in at just 0.9% this year, a further drop from 1.3% in 2015. “This reflects both depressed global conditions and the impact of the drought. It also reflects policy uncertainty, the effect of protracted labour disputes on business confidence, electricity supply constraints and regulatory barriers to investment,” the Minister noted.

Making matters even worse, our somewhat failing education system is inadequately preparing youth to be successful in their career paths. Out of the 799 306 learners who wrote their matric exams in 2015, only 455 825 passed - of which only 166 263 qualified for admission to bachelor studies. This said, even those who have a tertiary qualification are not guaranteed a job in the current market if the skills they have attained through their studies are not required by businesses and the industry at large - which is often the case.

Issues arising within the market will be discussed in further depth within this whitepaper which is based on Quest’s observations, interactions with candidates and organisations, as well as multiple referenced local and international sources.

The major concern to be addressed in this report is the catch 22 of employers being unable to secure the skills and talent they require to be globally competitive while job-seekers battle to pin-down the jobs they desire and are qualified for

This context is specifically worrying when considering South Africa’s growing working population. According to the World Bank economic update (2015), South Africa is in its demographic window of opportunity and will remain in this position for at least the next 50 years. If existing challenges are not adequately addressed, the unemployment rate may indeed continue to soar.

The World Bank Economic Update report highlights that since 1994, South Africa’s labour force - those aged between 15 and 64 - has increased by 11 million, and in the next five decades, this growth will expand by a further nine million.

Experiencing this profound demographic shift, with the majority of the population (68.3%) set to be at their working prime by 2045, South Africa faces the major challenge of ensuring that its people are able to find work and that the country gets the necessary economic boost to sustain it in the long-run.

2.2 Global context

The International Labour Organisation’s report on World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2016 revealed that, in 2015, over 197 million people were unemployed around the world – this is 27 million more than before the 2008 financial global crisis hit. Global unemployment is expected to increase by a further 3.4 million over the next two years.

The current levels of unemployment are due to the weakening world economy which is forecast to grow by only 3% - significantly less than before the global crisis. As a result, the employment and social gaps that have emerged cannot be closed, at least not in the short-term.

Fortunately, in Japan, the United States and some European countries, unemployment is declining and even getting back to pre-crisis rates in some regions. However, the situation is worsening in several middle-income and developing nations - including Latin America and the Caribbean, China, the Russian Federation and a number of Arab countries.

LinkedIn’s 2015 Talent Trends revealed that professionals around the world were more actively seeking new job opportunities than they were in 2014. Globally, 30% of professionals are actively searching for jobs. However, this differs significantly between countries due to economic and cultural factors. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India have the highest amount of active seekers, standing at 51%, 48% and 45% respectively. This is in contrast with low levels in Russia, Japan, the Netherlands, Taiwan and Belgium.

We will now be looking at employment issues in the global economies of United States of America, China and United Kingdom - some of South Africa’s major trading partners - in more detail.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, the unemployment rate of the country stood at 4.9% in January 2016 with 7.8 million unemployed. Employment declined particularly in private educational services, transportation and warehousing and mining.

Some of the reasons for unemployment in the country include an ageing population, moving people out of the workforce; automation replacing workers; and employers creating jobs in overseas markets to reduce labour costs or avoid tight regulations and red-tape.

Over the past year (2015), the number of unemployed persons and the unemployment rate were down by 1.1 million and a 0.8 percentage point, respectively. During 2015, hires totalled 61.4 million and separations (including quits, layoffs and discharges) totalled 58.8 million - yielding a net employment gain of 2.6 million and 5.6 million job openings.

The International Labour Organisation’s report on World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2016 states that while job creation has been robust, part of the decline in the unemployment rate has been due to large numbers of discouraged workers and diminishing labour force participation rates.

The International Labour Organisation predicts that the unemployment rate in the United States will continue on its downward trend over the next two years, reaching approximately 4.7% in 2017.

2.2.2 CHINA

The Ministry of Human Resource and Social Security of the People’s Republic of China reports that the country has an unemployment rate of 4.05%. This has remained relatively stable over the last decade, even during the global financial crisis.

Xin Changxing, Vice Minister of Human Resource and Social Security, attributed the resilience of the Chinese employment market to the increased size of the economy, faster expansion of labour-intensive services sectors, as well as the government's policy to make it easier for people to set-up new businesses.

A survey of urban employment centres, published by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, shows that for every job-seeker in China, there are 1.06 job openings. While this suggests that the country is balanced in terms of the supply and demand of labour, the market is actually very tight. There is due to a skills mismatch between job-seekers and job openings - those looking for employment are therefore not skilled for the jobs available to them.

The employment outlook for China is expected to have worsened in recent months, with predictions of a 0.8 million rise in unemployment in 2016 and 2017, this is according to the International Labour Organisation’s report on World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2016.


The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that, at the end of 2015, the unemployment rate in the United Kingdom stood at 5.1% - about 20% less than that of South Africa. This was down from the previous year and slightly lower than the pre-downturn trough of 5.2% for late 2007 to early 2008.

In article titled, ‘The UK Unemployment Mystery’, by Economics Help notes that this dip in unemployment is attributed to factors such as flexible labour markets, stagnant labour productivity and growth in self-employment.
ONS statistician, Nick Palmer explained that the employment rate continues to hit new highs and there are more job vacancies than ever previously recorded.

According to Trading Economics’ econometric models, the UK unemployment rate is predicted to stand at 4.30% in 12 months’ time and to trend at around 6.50% in 2020.

3. Why employers are unable to access adequate talent

A study titled, Global Talent 2021, conducted by Oxford Economics, revealed that despite high levels of unemployment, executives and managers tasked with hiring new workers often say they are unable to fi¬nd the right people with the appropriate skills required to fi¬ll vacancies.

However, there are qualified candidates that are seeking employment opportunities. Due to high demand for their skills, however, they have their pick of where they want to work. It is therefore crucial for companies to tailor their recruitment process to appeal to top talent, and so, companies need to be more proactive in tackling the talent shortage.

According to African Economic Outlook, a survey among experts on 36 African countries about the major challenges youth face in labour markets, 54% found a mismatch of skills between what job-seekers have to offer and what employers require to be a major obstacle.

One of the solutions to this is to recruit for potential and invest in the training and development of new hires. Another, is for business to make the skills they require clear and work with institutions of higher learning to ensure that the education they provide is aligned with this.

Furthermore, according to a 2015 research report - Domestic to Global Leadership: Positioning South African companies for global competitiveness - published by JT Executive Coaching & Advisory Services, Lodestar Marketing Research and Quest Staffing Solutions, almost 20% of South African business decision-makers think that their companies will switch to recruiting talent from other African countries or from other continents. This line of thinking is directly related to a lack of high-demand skills in the country.

In 2014, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande released a National Scarce Skills List. Occupations in highest demand which were included on this list include engineers; programme or project managers; financial managers; nursing professionals; plumbers; primary school maths teachers and forestry technicians.

Although the government updates the National Scarce Skills List bi-annually, this is an imprecise idea of the extent of skills shortages, not only in particular occupations, but in the economy as a whole.

While certain occupations made the list, it is also important to do some research into related fields and skills shortages in areas of particular interest for a specific candidate.

3.1 The job posting

To attract top talent, a major factor employers need to address is the way in which a job is ‘posted’ or advertised.

A survey by revealed some common ‘pet peeves’ amongst job-seekers when it comes to descriptions and advertisement by recruiters and HR departments. 57% of survey participants said that jargon in postings puts them off applying for a role, 23% complained about spelling errors, and 64% said they would not apply for a job if they were unable to understand the title. Confusing skills requirements was another bugbear identified.

While organisations often assign titles to jobs which address their own internal standards, these can confuse candidates who do not have similar corporate insight and / or experience. Without standardisation in many newly established professions, this will remain an on-going problem.

It is essential to note that a well written, thorough job posting should include a straightforward job title (to enable the potential applicant to understand the position and improve the chances of the positing coming up in searches), an opening paragraph which entices them to read more, a clear overview of the position, information about the location of the position, compensation, benefits, company culture and any other information that projects an image of the company as an employer of choice.

A list of skills required is also crucial and should be separated and clearly defined from those that are merely advantageous. In addition, the day to day responsibilities and outcomes required of the successful candidate should be incorporated in the posting.

Another consideration in this regard is to review the platforms chosen to advertise vacancies. The increasing use of mobile devices and social media platforms demand that businesses align their skills sourcing with popular platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

3.2 The application process

Some companies believe that a lengthy application process can help weed out unsuitable job-hunters. However, they run the risk of missing out on quality, yet time poor, applicants who may be working a current full-time job whilst pursuing other employment opportunities with competitors.

Companies therefore need to move quickly to ensure that they secure the best-of-the-best.

Furthermore, a protracted hiring and on-boarding process costs the hiring company both time and money.

This also contributes to the increasingly vital employer consideration of facilitating a positive candidate experience. The candidate experience provided to applicants can affect not only the company’s ability to hire talented job-seekers, but also its reputation.

A positive candidate experience can benefit the employment brand and may help generate referrals, while word of a negative experience can spread, keeping future top candidates from considering the company as an employer.

LinkedIn’s Talent Trends for South Africa reveals that 83% of talent say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they had previously liked. To ensure a good candidate experience, communication is critical. Applicants must be informed that their resume has been received as well as what the next steps are. It is also advisable that the process be as fast as possible, not leaving any questions unanswered or leaving candidates wondering about where they stand.


One way of simplifying and shortening the talent sourcing and recruitment process is via Employee Referral Programmes.

Recognised as one of LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends for 2016, these Programmes are a key source of quality hires who, according to the Jobvite Index, are not only hired 55% faster but also have a longer tenure and higher levels of job performance, as reported by ERE Recruiting.

With this in mind, it is beneficial for employers to involve their current staff in the hiring process. Not only do like-minded people tend to belong to the same social and professional groups, but current staff have first-hand knowledge and experience of the company’s culture. Who better to judge a culture fit than those who will not only be working with the individual every day but who are also already a part of the company and are working toward achieving business success for the organisation.


Part of the pre-interview screening process, the detailed job description mentioned previously should be used as a tool to sort the wheat from the chaff and only those that meet the requirements outlined should be brought in for interviews.

While there may be a number of under-qualified applicants who appear as though they show promise, it is important to stick to the outline of requirements posted in the job advertisement. This is particularly crucial in terms of the pay-grade highlighted in the posting as organisations may find themselves overcompensating for the work of an employee who is not truly suitable for the job.

However, if a candidate is ‘too good to let go’ but does not meet the requirements for the current vacancy, an employer should consider approaching them for a slightly more junior role. In this case, through practical training; mentoring; and skills-transfer, this employee can be grown into a more senior position while still adding value and not being nabbed by a competitor organisation in the short-term.


As stated previously, today’s top candidates do not have a lot of time to waste and are in high-demand by other industry players. This means that there may be restrictions on their interview availability, thereby hindering the interview process or even putting top candidates off altogether.

Offering to do interviews in the evenings, over weekends, over the phone or even via Skype will help companies to engage more efficiently with busy job-seekers and diminish scheduling conflicts. This, in turn, will hasten the hiring process and ensure that a company beats its competitors in securing top talent.


Although getting a staffing company to help with the hiring and on-boarding process can seem like an additional expense, they provide a quality and timely screening and hiring process. In addition, professional staffing and recruitment organisations have solid relationships with employers in various fields and are well-placed to assist job-seekers in terms of how they can better ‘sell’ themselves to potential employers and what positions they should consider pursuing. In many cases, due to the quality of candidates and the pre-onboarding process undertaken by staffing organisations, companies can actually save on costs when taking this route.

3.3 Employer brand

Another of the Global Recruiting Trends for 2016 is the employer brand. According to research by Employer Brand International, companies who invest in developing their employer brand can anticipate an increase in their ability to attract candidates.

The LinkedIn report showed that the most effective employer branding tools were social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter), online professional networks (e.g. LinkedIn) and a company’s website. Holding the number one spot on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For®, Google uses tools such as social media which includes a #askagoogler Twitter feed and millions of videos posted on YouTube to attract and recruit top talent.

4. Why job-seekers struggle to secure work

Statistics South Africa reveals that, at the end of 2015, there were 2.3 million discouraged work-seekers in South Africa. Africa Check defines these people as those who want to work but were challenged by a lack of jobs in the area, those who were unable to find work that required their skills and those who have lost hope of finding any kind of employment.

This figure is unsurprising as numerous job-seekers compete for a limited number of positions. However, there are factors within a candidates’ control that can aid in their approach to the job hunt and make them stand out to potential employers. We outline a number of these factors below.

4.1 The job search

According to LinkedIn’s Talent Trends for South Africa, when local talent want to find new job opportunities, 62% use online channels like job boards and 52% use social professional networks like LinkedIn. It is suggested that in addition to this, job-seekers try networking and approaching potential businesses, even if they're not openly hiring, in order to broaden their job search. 

When responding to job advertisements and opportunities, it is also crucial for candidates to ask for and take note of the cut-off dates for submissions and to submit their CVs and applications before the stated deadline.

This said, a clear understanding of the job requirements is vital. Applying for a job which a candidate does not meet the qualification and experience requirements suggests that they have not reviewed the post thoroughly – this reflects negatively on the job-seeker’s attention to detail and suitability to work within the respective organisation.

In addition, a candidate’s email addresses and voicemail messages should project a professional image. It is also advisable that candidates have a separate email for connecting with recruiters and potential employers and that they respond to any requests for additional information, calls or interviews in a timely manner.

4.2 CVs

It is essential that the CVs of job-seekers contain accurate, up-to-date, detailed information about specific skills, experience and training relevant to the position they are applying for - all of which should be spelling and grammatical error free.

Any gaps in work history should be explained and candidates should link prior experience with the requirements for the job at hand in their cover letter. However, one should not overstate their qualifications as this will be revealed during the interview, screening and reference checking process.

With the on-going scourge of CV fraud across the globe, candidates should be aware that screening is a major priority for many organisations. According to Managed Integrity Evaluation’s (MIE) 2015 Background Screening Index, more than 70 000 qualifications of over 470 000 Qualification Checks conducted in 2015, were found to be negative, inconsistent or fraudulent.  This includes candidates deliberately forging or altering their certificates, altering results or never having been awarded the respective qualification. The index also notes an 11% increase in the demand for background screening services in South Africa and Africa over the last five years.

4.3 Interviews

To make a positive impression, candidates need to prioritise arriving for interviews early or on time. It is equally important that the interviewees’ personal appearance conforms to the way others in the company dress and that their outfit is clean and professional. A poor personal appearance can eliminate applicants from the short list before they even open their mouth. A common suggestion is to dress for the position you are hoping to grow into, it is therefore better to over-dress than to be too casual.

Preparation for the interview, which includes having a clear understanding of the position on offer; practicing to answer interview questions; as well as researching the company, is crucial.

Interviewers are impressed by candidates who know about their company and can formulate answers without hesitating or stumbling over their words. This shows a potential employer that a candidate is truly interested, not only in securing the job, but also in the organisation as a whole.

The attitude that is projected by an interviewee helps to formulate an impression in the interviewer’s mind. Thus expressing enthusiasm for the job during the interview is key.

In addition, candidates should avoid giving the impression that they are only interested in how they can benefit from the company. Instead, they should establish what they will be contributing to the prospective employer, highlighting how they can add value and contribute towards reaching the company’s goals and objectives. They should also communicate their job goals clearly as employers are reluctant to hire people who do not know what they want to do or where they want to be in five to 10 years. It is important to note that realistic ambition and hard work are admirable traits in a potential employee.

A definite ‘no-no’ during an interview is bad-mouthing previous employers. Although a candidate may have had problems with their current or previous employer, it is more beneficial to put a positive spin on it - by saying that they are looking for better opportunities when asked why they are making a change for example. It is also beneficial to note that although a candidate may have faced numerous challenges in previous positions, these situations contributed to their personal growth and had ultimately led them to the interview stage for a job they believe they are best suited for.

While the purpose of an interview is for candidates to sell themselves, they should avoid lying about their experience and education as potential employers can check the information and will reject an individual if discrepancies arise. Candidates should also decide, ahead of time, how to answer tricky questions about their limitations and note how they are addressing their ‘weaknesses’ as this portrays a focus on self-awareness and self-improvement.

An article by Work Coach Cafe revealed factors which can directly result in a candidate being rejected. These include low energy, vague answers, not listening, acting unprofessionally, not being oneself, and not offering strong examples of achievements. When preparing for an interview, these factors should be front of mind for job-seekers.

After an interview, candidates should send a thank you note via email or follow up with a telephone call to reinforce their interest in the job as well as ask any additional questions they may have forgotten to raise during the interview.

4.4 Skills

The skills shortage in South Africa refers not only to technical skills but soft skills too. These include communication skills, critical thinking, motivation and attitude along with dependability and co-operation.

In today’s economic climate and strained job-market, both business leaders and employees need to focus on developing a bigger EQ in addition to IQ. Soft skills are therefore becoming increasingly more important in the workplace. Candidates who have strong soft skills are attractive to employers as they are able to work well with others - essential in the increasingly diverse South African workplace which often encourages team work and collaboration.

A recent Kelly and Quest paper, A Report on Recruitment Trends – 2016 and Beyond, noted that it is critical for job-seekers to be proactive in the current environment.

In order to be successful, the Kelly and Quest report explains that candidates should demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of organisational forms and skill requirements. Because they will increasingly be called upon to reassess the skills they need, they are required to seek out the appropriate resources to develop and update their skills. The report further highlighted that the workforce of 2016 and of the future will need to be adaptable, life-long learners.


With soft skills taking the spotlight, strong communication skills are normally in the requirements section of job descriptions.

Regardless of whether communication skills are written or verbal, employers want employees who can make their point quickly and effectively, understand how to explain subjects to various audiences and keep their team informed.

Weaknesses in written communication can be improved by reading professional articles and content which speak to the organisation’s values and key messaging. Verbal communication deficiencies can be addressed by joining groups like Toastmasters that encourage members to speak publically.

Practicing speaking in front of a mirror can also assist candidates in becoming more comfortable with their mannerisms and certain phrases before a major presentation or interview. Verbal communication skills are especially important for positions which involve liaising with clients, customers and other important stakeholders.


Critical thinking and problem solving are both skills that are important for workplace success. This entails dissecting problems and selecting creative solutions using available resources.

Critical thinking also involves considering multiple viewpoints and reassessing solutions in light of new evidence.

4.5 Positive Attitude

An employee’s attitude impacts their relationships with co-workers and supervisors, their feelings around tasks to be undertaken and their levels of job satisfaction. 

A candidate with a positive attitude brings out the best in those around them, they tackle challenges willingly and figure out how to accomplish even the most boring tasks without becoming negative.

A single employee’s attitude can impact that of their team and spread even further within an organisation. An employer would therefore be wary of hiring someone who is all ‘doom and gloom’ and who is unable to identify possible solutions when faced with a difficult situation.

4.6 Experience

Many candidates apply for jobs for which they do not have the necessary experience. Those lacking experience for a particular role should consider applying for a lower level position and work their way up.

4.7 Expectations

It is important for candidates to have realistic expectations when joining a new organisation.

While it is often the case that employees will change jobs for career growth or higher earnings, those who have been retrenched, are new entrants to the workforce, or who are pursuing a new career path need to consider their lack of experience and be willing to start from scratch.

With few jobs available in the market, coupled with an abundance of candidates, the job market is highly competitive. With this in mind, it may be necessary for job-seekers to settle for an entry level job or one which pays less than what may be desirable. While ambition is an admirable trait, hard work pays off long-term.

5. Recommendations

5.1 Finding the balance

As a result of the employment catch 22, employers and jobseekers are placing blame both on each other as well as on the government and education providers.

However, both need to re-examine their expectations of each other, take responsibility for their roles in the dichotomy and seek out mutually beneficial solutions.

5.2 Employers

To win the war for talent, employers need a two pronged plan of attack – retaining and training current staff and attracting top talent before the need arises.

According to LinkedIn’s South Africa Recruiting Trends 2016, 35% of employers say that employee retention is a top priority over the next 12 months. This may be due to increasing obstacles in attracting top talent and finding candidates in high-demand talent pools.

Despite the prioritisation of employee retention, the majority of companies only occasionally recruit internally or not at all, so there is a huge opportunity to improve, particularly when it comes to filling positions requiring high-skilled workers. This may be a more attractive option with the provision of further training.

An additional benefit of providing internal training and development opportunities is that it makes companies more appealing to potential employees. An Employer Brand International survey found that 86% of employees are attracted to companies because of development opportunities.

A common blunder made by companies hoping to attract top talent is the knee-jerk reaction of filling vacancies as they arise. A forward thinking approach would rather be to proactively connect with talent well in advance, this is known as talent pipelining and is a method adopted by a number of the world’s top organisations. Not only does this assist companies in identifying the right talent early on, but also reduces the time to hire.

Some of the ways successful companies are engaging with this talent includes participating in career fairs at institutions of higher learning and offering attractive internships.

5.3 Employees

When seeking employment in a market plagued by a skills shortage, candidates should consider up-skilling themselves via part time courses or internships.

As mentioned previously in this report, many people struggle to find work as they lack experience, but are also unable to get that experience without a job.

Volunteering allows job-seekers to get both skills and experience. It also looks good on their CV as it shows potential employers that they are passionate about the industry and are motivated and hardworking, even when they are not being paid for their efforts.

A survey by TimeBank found that 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without.

Another way that volunteering can aid in the job search is through networking. Not only do volunteers interact with each other and the people and organisations they help, but they also cross paths with representatives from other institutions like partners and sponsors

Job-seekers should also keep the suggestions mentioned in point four (above) in mind, to set themselves apart during the application process.

5.4 What can we do?


As mentioned in both the President’s 2016 State of the Nation Address and the 2016 Budget Speech, government is aiming to improve the economy, unemployment and education through the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030.

The Plan presents a long-term strategy to increase employment and broaden opportunities through education, vocational training, work experience and public employment programmes.

Objectives of the NDP include creating 11 million jobs and cutting the unemployment rate to 6% by 2030. In auctioning this goal, government has set its sights on small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) as a vehicle to create 90% of these jobs.

With this in mind, it was also stated in the 2016 Budget Speech that R475 million has been reprioritised to the Department of Small Business Development to assist small and medium enterprises and cooperatives.

Government is also trying to tackle unemployment through Public Employment Programmes with the aim of creating six million work opportunities by 2019. These include environmental programmes such as Working on Waste, Working for Wetlands, Working for Water and Working on Fire which have created more than 30 000 work opportunities - on track to reach its goal of creating more than 60 000.

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has also contributed to alleviating unemployment with the creation of 3 335 jobs. In 2015, the Jobs Fund spent R4 billion, in partnership with the private sector, on projects that create new employment, support work-seekers and address structural constraints to more inclusive growth.

In addition, the Employment Tax Incentive - which was introduced in 2014 - has seen some 29 000 employers claim R2 billion rand to-date for at least 207 000 young employees.

The NDP states that education, training and innovation are critical to the attainment of its employment goals. It also highlights that the role of the post-school sector is to respond to the skill needs of all sectors of society including business, industry and government as well as raise education and training levels to produce highly skilled professionals and technicians. Consequently, an additional R16 billion has been allocated to higher education over the next three years.

The Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), in its working paper titled: Towards a youth employment strategy for South Africa, suggests that the Department of Education should design the school curriculum so that it provides youth with educational knowledge and life skills. This is aimed at ensuring a smooth transition into the world of work and adulthood.

The paper also recommends that that the Department accelerate measures for improving the quality and relevance of education, particularly at primary and secondary school level. This is to ensure that the youth are adequately prepared for post-school learning and training. In addition, the DBSA advises that the Department reintroduce career guidance, with particular emphasis on the promotion of scarce skills. 


It is becoming increasing pivotal for businesses to clearly communicate which skills they require and work with institutions of higher learning to ensure that the education they provide is aligned with this.

Businesses also need to open their doors to youth, assisting them in gaining the experience they require to grow their careers, through internships and mentoring or volunteer programmes.


Job-seekers need to start taking more initiative when on the job hunt.

This includes:
- Asking potential employers what skills they require and have found to be lacking in entry level employees. Take the necessary actions to acquire these skills.
- Consider obtaining the skills laid out in the National Scarce Skills to increase their chances of finding employment.
- Take advantage of government’s Public Employment Programmes.

6. References

• Statistics South Africa: Quarterly Labour Force Survey -
• International Monetary Fund South Africa 2013 Article IV Consultation  -
• Adcorp: SA’s economy desperately needs high-skilled workers -
• South African Government: State of the Nation Address 2014 -
• South African Government: State of The Nation Address 2015 -
• South African Government: 2016 Budget Speech -
• South African Government: Announcement of the 2015 NSC Examinations Results -
• World Bank: South Africa Economic Update: Seizing the Window of Demographic Opportunity -
• International Labour Organisation: World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2016 -
• LinkedIn: 2015 Talent Trends -
• U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics: The Employment Situation January 2016 -
• U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics: Employment Situation Summary -
• U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics: Job Openings and Labor Turnover – December 2015 -
• Trading Economics: China Unemployment Rate -
• Reuters: Update 2-China says employment resilient despite slower economic growth -
• The Economist: Trying to count China's jobless -
• Office for National Statistics: UK Labour Market, January 2016 -
• Economics Help: UK Unemployment Mystery -
• BBC: UK unemployment still at 10 year-low, falling by 60,000 -
• Oxford Economics: Global Talent 2021 -
• African Economic Outlook: Education & Skills Mismatch -
• Quest: Domestic to Global Leadership Report -
• Department of Higher Education and Training: South African National Scarce Skills List -
• Monster: Job Jargon Infographic -
• LinkedIn Global Recruiting Trends 2016 -
• Jobvite Index -
• ERE Recruiting: 10 Compelling Numbers That Reveal The Power Of Employee Referrals -
• Employer Brand International: Media Release - EBI Global Survey Findings -!Media-Release-EBI-Global-Survey-Findings/c17f2/5506a5f00cf2458597ce7bbf
• Great Place to Work: Best Practices from Best Companies, Part 1of 3: Recruitment -
• Africa Check: Factsheet: Unemployment statistics in S. Africa explained -
• LinkedIn: Talent Trends for South Africa -
• Kelly and Quest: A Report on Recruitment Trends – 2016 and Beyond -
• Work Coach Café -
• LinkedIn South Africa Recruiting Trends 2016 -
• Global Recruiting Roundtable: 2011 Global Employer Branding Study Results -
• National Development Plan 2030: Economy and employment -
• South African Government: Government priority: Creating decent jobs -
• National Development Plan 2030 Improving education, training and innovation -
• Development Bank of South Africa: Towards a youth employment strategy for South Africa -
• World Volunteer Web Benefits of volunteering -
• Managed Integrity Evaluation 2015 Background Screening Index –

7. Authors

Kay Vittee : Chief Executive Officer  
Quest Staffing Solutions  

KC Makhubele: Managing Executive: Marketing
Stephen Shields: Managing Executive - Operations
Quest Staffing Solutions