By Dr Eugene Brink
Covid-19 has laid bare the broad shifts underway in the labour market, while providing a more temporary fillip to certain skills and services.
A Career Junction index released late last year, showed that the top employment sectors in South Africa were business and management, sales, information and communications technology (ICT), marketing, cleaning, maintenance and repair, and architecture and engineering.
Businesses are seeking more software development skills, management skills and sales consulting skills. For instance, demand for sales staff increased by a whopping 35% between June and November last year. Moreover, finance managers and software developers, in particular, are in high demand and have been for a while.
A report from Career Junction for February 2021 showed that managerial skills combined with managerial expertise are in demand – particularly middle and department managers. However, senior management is also one of the trending jobs with average salaries for a skilled level ranging from R59 454 to R78 732 in Gauteng and R46 439 to R55 394 in the Western Cape.
This correlates strongly with longer-term trends and sheds light on the fact that more than completely reshaping the labour market, it has simply expedited and exacerbated certain existing trends.
Rather surprisingly, clerical, administrative and office work remains in high demand in South Africa in spite of the presumed drive for automation and digitisation that will increasingly put these jobs at risk. Trending jobs in the Career Junction index include customer support and administrative clerks. However, there is also a high supply of labour in these professions and this means that there is likely to be some competition for jobs – especially the more lucrative ones. Nevertheless, these jobs seem to be safe and in demand, in the short term at least.
Dr Yudhvir Seetharam, head of Analytics, Insights and Research at FNB Business, says the role of data scientists is currently greater than ever in enabling and informing business strategy.
Data scientists combine computer science, statistics and social sciences to gather and analyse large pools of structured and unstructured data. They then use models to interpret and model this data to create actionable plans for companies. They should be equally adept at communicating and leading, seeing that their work is often cross-functional.
To date data science has been integral in the battle against the pandemic. The interpretation of big data has helped to understand the dynamics of the disease and its spread, as well as businesses using data to better grasp the needs and wants of clients. “Against this backdrop, one would be forgiven for assuming that data scientists now pretty much have built-in job security,” said Dr Seetharam.
According to Payscale data, the average salary for a South African data scientist is R432 310.
Although the threat of Covid-19 has somewhat receded lately, there is still the very real threat of a deadly third wave during the winter months. A report by Adzuna showed that demand for Covid-19 medical positions – such as registered nurses, pharmacy assistants and occupational health specialists who can help companies assist sick workers – has surged in South Africa.
“It is interesting to see how this public health disaster is creating a range of jobs aimed at containing the disease. Jobs like pharmacist’s assistant and registered nurses have risen quickly. But we expect the demand for these skills to increase even more over the coming months,” says Jesse Green, country manager for Adzuna South Africa.
This surge might only be temporary, but the afflictions of the public health sector and the demand for quality healthcare have rendered this more long-term.
Education is shifting increasingly online, and Covid-19 has significantly accelerated this trend. The lingering fear that schools may close again and the shift to remote work and schooling, is increasing the demand for online teachers and tutors. “Our educational landscape has also been transformed by the pandemic. Even before lockdown, distance education was something that a lot of South Africans were considering. Adzuna expects ‘home-schooler’ to become a sought-after role, possibly something for current teachers to shift to in their careers,” says Green.
The emotional and psychological toll that Covid-19 has taken on people is also likely to increase the need for social workers and psychologists – at least in the short term.
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BusinessTech, 17 March 2021, “The most in-demand job skills in South Africa right now”, https://businesstech.co.za/news/business/476754/the-most-in-demand-job-skills-in-south-africa-right-now-6/.
BusinessTech, 26 January 2021, “This high-paying job is likely to be in demand post Covid-19 in South Africa”, https://businesstech.co.za/news/technology/463470/this-high-paying-job-is-likely-to-be-in-demand-post-covid-19-in-south-africa/.
BusinessTech, 16 November 2021, “These are the most in-demand job skills in South Africa right now”, https://businesstech.co.za/news/business/448861/these-are-the-most-in-demand-job-skills-in-south-africa-right-now-16/.
Cape Business News, 17 March 2021, “The most in-demand job skills in South Africa right now”, https://www.cbn.co.za/featured/the-most-in-demand-job-skills-in-south-africa-right-now/.
Masterindatascience.org, 2021, “What is a data scientist?”, https://www.mastersindatascience.org/careers/data-scientist/.
McKinsey Global Institute, 2021, “The future of work after Covid-19”, https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-future-of-work-after-covid-19.