South Africa's workforce needs to move faster to digitalise

13 February 2020 2 min. read
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Speed, innovation and collaboration are of the essence when it comes to nurturing South Africa’s future workforce, according to CEO of Mercer South Africa Tamara Parker. In an article published in, Parker wrrote of South Africa’s unemployment woes and the way out.

Economic conditions are far from ideal in South Africa, and among the most pressing issues is the rising unemployment numbers in the country. Where unemployment is already among the highest across the globe in South Africa, Parker wrote that as many as 10,000 job cuts have been announced across multiple sectors in the country.

The growing menace has been cause for concern for many market watchers in South Africa, and many have suggested similar remedies. The business environment is digitalising rapidly in South Africa, consistent with global trends, and there is an increasing demand for digital talent and skills in the workforce.

Provided that South Africans can be trained to work in collaboration with a range of Industry 4.0 technologies, the surplus of unemployed individuals will meet the growing demand for digital skills and significantly reduce unemployment rates. Global management consultancy Accenture has been among the most vocal advocates of this approach.

Tamara Parker, CEO of Mercer South Africa

Parker reiterates this approach, but argues that South Africa has been slow to take action in this scenario. “As long as companies continue to procrastinate on putting in place HR strategies and programs to harness the power of human capital to create sustainable futures and close this gap, there will be consequences,” she writes.

“In order to avoid a severe crippling effect, government, as well as the private sector, need to act now to make sure that employees possess the necessary skills to participate in the digital economy by enabling humans and machines to work together in the future,” added Parker.

According to her, the development of digital skills is not only a means to tackling the issue of unemployment, but is also a big step in the direction of digitalisation in the work environment. South Africa’s economy as a whole could benefit from a quicker digitalisation process.

“For South Africa where poverty remains a pressing issue, alongside unemployment and poor social security, the country requires greater collaboration between government, business and labour in keeping up with the rapidly changing skill demand of jobs today. But even as businesses move to prepare for the future of work, it is crucial that the reskilling process matches the accelerated pace of digitisation in the workplace,” concluded Parker.