Pages Navigation Menu

Self-employment Opportunities & Skills Development

Employment Opportunities

Employment Opportunities

Employment opportunities in South Africa abound. Occupational categories most in demand are:

    • Clerical and secretarial
    • Education and support services
    • Engineering
    • Management and finance related
    • Medical and Health related
    • Science and Mathematical Science
    • Tourism and Hospitality
    • Trades

19-million jobs

South Africa’s rate of unemployment is possibly the highest in the world. Statistics place almost 60 per cent of jobseekers between the ages of 16 and 64. To reverse this dilemma the country needs to create at least 19-million jobs. President Jacob Zuma has pledged to create 5 million jobs by 2020. Work is an important part of every person’s life; it defines who you are socially. For young people, acquiring essential skills to find a stable position symbolizes the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Youth Unemployment

The majority of South Africa’s unemployed are young people; most have little or no practical on-the-job knowledge and therefore ill-equipped to compete in a labor market driven by positive discrimination that favors multi-skilled employees. University degrees or diplomas no longer hold the promise of jobs for young South Africans as hundreds of thousands of them battle to find work. There are nearly 600 000 unemployed graduates in South Africa.

Young women less likely to find a job

According to data released by Statistics SA, young women in South Africa are less likely than young men to get a job and both are less likely than their parents to find work despite being better educated. The report predicts that youth unemployment in the country will remain entrenched well into the future due to poor educational, vocational and entrepreneurial outcomes. Some youth, mostly male candidates who have a tertiary education and some work experience, are more likely to find work than others.

Why are young women in South Africa less likely to find employment? It can’t be because male university graduates outnumber female university graduates; in fact the opposite is true. However, the elephant in the room is that there is a significant lack of female graduates within specialized industries such as information technology, engineering, medical, science, and commerce.

Management skills account for nearly half of the 829 000 vacancies in corporate South Africa. Professionals such as accountants, lawyers, medical doctors and engineers enjoy the lowest unemployment rates, at 0.4%. Holders of degrees including B. Com. (commerce), B.Sc. (science) and B. Compt. (accounting science) have a very low unemployment rate, at 3.1%.

The opposite trend is happening in the UK where the number of stay-at-home fathers has reached a record high, fuelled by growing numbers of female breadwinners. Many men are now having to think about whether to retrain or possibly take a job that is not as highly paid, and asking whether it is worth their while if their partner is in a good job.

Entry-level low-paid work

The same consideration should be given by young women in South Africa, whether to seek ‘low paid’ freelance employment or micro-business start-ups, or acquire job skills through training and further study. Many South Africans are still not computer literate; most jobs today list computer literacy as a prerequisite skill. The most sought-after skills are finance, accounting, management, law, and medicine, as well as commercial farming. Other disciplines that require an educated workforce with practical experience include:

      • ElectronicWaste Management Coordinators (workers in this field safely dispose of electronic waste products);
      • Engineers (biochemical engineers are needed to develop the bio-fuel industry in South Africa to reduce the country’s reliance on imported fuel);
      • Entertainment and media industries (technical jobs such as for video game designers and software developers will continue to grow);
      • Medical Assistants and Nurses (healthcare in South Africa is expected to grow exponentially and doctors’ offices, hospitals and clinics will have an increasing demand for qualified aides);
      • Wind Turbine Technicians (green energy jobs are vital to the country’s environmental conservation).

According to a survey conducted by Manpower Group South Africa, the ten jobs in greatest demand are:

      • Accounting and finance staff
      • Chefs and cooks
      • Doctors and other non-nursing health professionals
      • Drivers
      • Machinists
      • Personal and administrative assistants
      • Sales representatives
      • Skilled trades
      • Supervisors
      • Teachers


Rampant Protests and Labor Strikes

Considering the high percentage of unemployed people in South Africa, it is not unusual that the country has been dubbed ‘the protest capital of the world’ with widespread public protests and strikes in relation to wage disputes, service delivery [especially with regard to water and sanitation] and grievances around land and housing. Other significant protests include government corruption (especially at the local level), rampant crime, increases in transport and electricity tariffs, increases in food prices, overcrowding in public schools, and low wages.

Entitlement Mentality

Thousands of South Africans continue to feel marginalized and ignored, living in slum shacks, collecting water from taps in the street, poor sanitation and inadequate healthcare facilities.  A major challenge to finding ready solutions to these problems is to educate people to change their entitlement mentality. Promises of job creation, higher wages, bigger social grant payments, re-allocation of farms, nationalizing mines and seizing banks and national retail chains to fund youth development and eradicate poverty are but a few ‘red herrings’ suggested to highly impressionable and impoverished  people who consider it their just due.

Embracing Economic Self-Sufficiency

For our nation to move forward, we must take our future into our own hands. Instead of expecting government and the private sector to take sole responsibility for job creation South Africans must do something positive to help uplift their circumstances. It is empowering when people recognize the concept ‘from humble beginnings mighty things grow’. Unemployed individuals must be willing to take up a modest job or explore self-employment on a micro scale as a starting point, and gradually improve their way of life.

Work Choices

Informal retail, catering and care jobs are good lower-level occupations or freelance contracts to consider. While these options may not attract much in the line of formal training, it could turn temporary jobs [waiters, clerks, and office assistants] into stepping stones. An entitlement mentality can be very self-destructive. Most blame the government for not helping more, but blame games do not spare people from unnecessary suffering. The development of low-skill manufacturing jobs and self-employment micro-enterprises is an effective route out of poverty.

Words by Theresa Lütge-Smith (

Share Button
468 ad
  • Cheryl Eustace

    If everyone adopted the attitude, ‘despite my qualifications, I will work anywhere as long as I get my foot in a door so that I can prove what I am capable of, to get to where I’m going’ they would find themselves further than they were. ALL experience counts at the end of the day but one has to take steps to be able to move forward. If we sit back and do nothing…..that is exactly what the result will be.