Skills development in South Africa

South Africa skills snapshot

Developing the relevant skills

  • Does South Africa invest enough in education and training? South Africa spent 4.8% of its annual income on education in 2009.
  • Should more be done to prevent skills shortages? In 2011, 14% of South Africa’s employers reported recruitment difficulties, down from 39% in 2007.

Supplying skills

  • Is there scope to improve skill utilisation in South Africa through strengthening labour force participation? In 2011, the labour force participation rate of South Africa was 54.3%.The participation rate for prime-age women (aged 25-54) was 62.6% in 2011.
  • Is there scope to improve skill utilisation among South Africa’s youth? The participation rate for youth (aged 15/16-24) was 26% in 2011. In 2009, the rate of South Africa’s youth neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET) was 32.8%.
  • To what extent are South Africa’s older workers supplying their skills to the labour market? In 2011, only 40% of people aged 55 to 64 were in the labour force.

Using skills

  • How smooth is the transition from school to work for South Africa’s youth? In 2012, the unemployment rate of South Africa’s youth was 49.2%, a high rate compared with the OECD average of 17.1%.
  • Are the qualifications of South Africa’s workers well matched with the requirements of their jobs? In 2005, 24% of South Africa’s workers were over-qualified for their jobs, and 27% were under-qualified. Over-qualified (under-qualified) workers are those who have a higher (lower) qualification than the most common qualification of all other workers in the same occupation.

Human Resource Development Strategy for South Africa (formerly JIPSA)

The Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA) was established in March 2006 as a high level partnership between government, business and organised labour to accelerate the acquisition of priority skills in order to meet the demands of Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA)Migration of JIPSA into the Human Resource Development Strategy for South Africa.jipsa

In March 2009, Cabinet approved the revised Human Resource Development Strategy for South Africa (HRD-SA). Cabinet’s decision marked the migration of work initiated under JIPSA into the HRD-SA and the incorporation of the JIPSA secretariat into the Human Resource Development Support Unit. With the migration, the JIPSA secretariat will be known as the Human Resource Development Support Unit. The role of the National Business Initiative The National Business Initiative (NBI) is a non-profit, business based organisation, whose role is to enhance the business contribution to a thriving society.Since the inception of JIPSA, the NBI has provided JIPSA with a small, full time secretariat in the form of assisting the Joint Task Team and the Technical Working Group with the development of the priority skills plan, budget and implementation strategy; providing ongoing administrative and project-management support, as well as policy analysis, research and research management capacity; preparing reports and documents as required; and assisting with tracking and monitoring of projects.


The HRD-SA is managed by the Department of Higher Education and Training under the leadership of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. The Deputy President is in the process of establishing a Human Resource Development Council, which will ensure that the lessons gained from the JIPSA experience are institutionalised and inform the implementation of the HRD-SA.

The JIPSA model

The JIPSA model rests on four propositions:

  • It is constructed as a joint initiative of the social partners;
  • Its focus is on limited number of ‘priority skills’;
  • It is based upon the voluntary ‘self binding’ of autonomous ‘project owners’ (line departments in government or players in the private sector or organised labour); and
  • Its approach is practical and problem-solving.

The key JIPSA structure is the Joint Task Team which reports to the AsgiSA Task Team and Cabinet. It is supported by the Technical Working Group made up of senior leaders in government, business, labour, academic and research institutions and civil society. The process is supported by the Jipsa Secretariat, advisory groups and experts

The JIPSA strategy

The JIPSA strategy had rested on the assumption that skills acquisition was not merely a numbers challenge, but a systems challenge. It involves broadening the training pipeline, retaining people in skilled employment, and training them more effectively and to higher quality standards. Along with the setting of targets, it is equally important to address the systems blockages and inefficiencies and problems of quality that impede the acquisition of relevant, high-quality skills to sustain growth over the medium to longer terms.

A three-point strategy has been adopted to address the acquisition of priority skills:

1. Five high profile priority skills areas were identified for immediate attention:

  • High-level, world-class engineering and planning skills for the ‘network industries’ – transport, communications, water, energy
    City, urban and regional planning and engineering skills
  • Artisanal and technical skills, with priority attention to infrastructure development, housing and energy, and in other areas identified as being in strong demand in the labour market
  • Management and planning skills in education and health
  • Mathematics, science and language competence in public schooling.

2. Key ‘project owners’ and role players were engaged regarding the skills required to underpin AsgiSA projects and increase labour absorption.

This led to concrete proposals for priority skills initiatives in the fields of tourism, information and communications technology, business process outsourcing and biofuels. It must be noted however that stakeholders have subsequently agreed that JIPSA should focus attention on the agricultural sector in general and not limit itself to the biofuels sector narrowly.

3. Constraints and inefficiencies in the current frameworks and institutional arrangements for skills delivery were tackled. These include:

  • The problem of unemployed graduates
  • Strengthening the labour market and skills information system
  • The National Qualifications Framework Review and quality assurance mechanisms
  • Artisan training capacity.

Interesting reads:

Connecting the right parties

VVOB education voor development

Consolidated JIPSA close out report


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