South Africans are engaged in efforts to develop digital skills

19 September 2019 3 min. read

General emphasis on the need for South Africans to develop skills of the future appears to be having tangible effects, as PwC reports that as many as 90% of workers in South Africa are currently working on learning new skills. The firm also finds a correlation between the level of education and concerns over the impact of automation.

The unemployment rate in South Africa is currently amongst the lowest in the world, which has been a considerable barrier to the country’s economic fortunes in recent years. Government initiatives to rectify the scenario through economic reform and growth have come to little avail so far, while other trends have threatened to worsen the situation.

Automation is one such trend. Across the globe, people and businesses have been growing increasingly concerned that the automation of certain tasks is likely to lead to widespread loss of jobs. The only silver lining in this regard is that the advent of digital tools is likely to generate demand for new jobs as well, albeit with entirely novel skill-requirements.

Experts in South Africa and across the globe have been calling for more investment at a government, private and individual level to develop digital skills, to prepare the workforce for the new wave of digital jobs that is likely to emerge imminently. Speed is of the essence in this scenario.

South Africans are engaged in efforts to develop digital skills

The major barrier in this regard is that the development of digital skills requires a certain degree of previous education. Big Four accounting and advisory firm PwC has found that workers are all too aware of this barrier. On the other hand, the ability to navigate the digitalisation through skill-development appears to have given hope to many.

According to PwC, 70% of South African workers are currently optimistic about the impact that technology is having on the job environment. On the flipside, 56% of adults working in South Africa’s business environment believe that automation is putting jobs at risk, although only 16% believe that there will be a tangible impact on themselves.

The call for digital skill development, meanwhile, has been answered vociferously, with 90% of South African workers reporting that they are currently developing digital skills. Most of these individuals, however, are already educated. The rest might require support from some other avenues.

“All over the world jobs are changing – this is taking place at a rapid pace. The discrepancy between the skills people have and those needed for jobs in the digital world is one of the most critical issues in the workplace. It is a problem for businesses, individuals, governments and policy makers. It is in the interest of all stakeholders to collaborate and work together to solve this issue,” says Chantal Maritz, Strategy& Digital Transformation Lead.