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South African job market fails to recover while much of the world gets back to business

The South African job market has seen some gradual improvements week with the easing of lockdown regulations, but it is still one of the biggest casualties among the global job market competitors.

SA has lost at least 40% of vacancies year to date. Certain industries still can’t operate, which continues to keep certain vacancies stuck in the job loss chasm. Plans to re-open restaurants for sit-down meals at the start of July resulted in a small boost to the SA hospitality industry. However, compared to January this year, vacancies are still at least 19%-20% down. This means that it could be a long and winding recovery road for South Africa.

Global job market gets back to business

In India, the majority of public spaces such as offices, restaurants, and malls were open since the start of June, according to the BBC. Vacancies in the Indian job market, which was in desperate need of a boost, increased by 11% week-on-week. But India is also one of the countries hardest-hit by job losses on a global scale. 38% of all jobs in India have been wiped off the board since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Both Australia and the United States lost a third of all their vacancies throughout the first half of the year. Hiring patterns in both countries are slowly improving week on week. But the uncertainty around consumer behaviour and lockdown restrictions will probably slow down the rate of job growth in these job markets.

In a similar position, Singapore has experienced a 31% drop in vacancies year to date. As the country gets ready to lift more lockdown restrictions, there might be a possible uplift in the weeks to come.

EU countries show some of the quickest recovery rates

Countries such as France, Germany, Italy, and Poland have all started relaxing their lockdown restrictions, and the results and impact of these measures are somewhat mixed on the job market.

Poland is one of the only countries that made a complete “job advert recovery”, with vacancies now 3% higher than they were at the start of the year. For a country that only relaxed their lockdown restrictions a month ago, the uptick is relatively quick and inspiring.

France and Germany are two of the fastest-recovering European countries post-lockdown. In France, advertised vacancies are merely 2% less than compared to stats from January. Germany has 4% fewer job adverts than it did at the start of the year.

Italy, on the other hand, seems to be recovering much slower than France and Germany. Similar to South Africa, the Italian job market features 18% less advertised vacancies compared to January. Growth seems to be slow here due to their strict lockdown measures that lasted for several months, as well as being particularly hard-hit by the virus in the early months of 2020.

Staggered recovery predicted for South African job market

The government does not offer significant support to the informal sector. This is a sector that employs up to 30% of South Africa’s workforce. The effect of lockdown has been severe for millions of South Africans. And as infection rates keep soaring, there is no relief in sight for the immediate future.

At the end of June, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the further easing of South Africa’s Level 3 lockdown restrictions. This would allow businesses like cinemas, casinos, theatres, hair salons and spas to open under extremely strict measures.

But recovering from the damage that was inflicted by months of lockdown will not be a speedy process.

The majority of small businesses have had to implement salary cuts and retrenchments. Others simply did not make it through the lockdown and will never reopen again. On the 23rd of June, Stats SA confirmed that South Africa had hit a record unemployment rate of 30.1%.

Expectancies in the SA employment market post-lockdown

Before lockdown, we were slightly worried about robots taking over our jobs. The world is at the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Industry 4.0. But during a pandemic, issues like these are easy to forget.

The pandemic we are facing looks like it might be a catalyst to the revolution. It is the pandemic, not the robots, that is disrupting life in every country and bringing about massive change.

Jesse Green, Country Manager for Adzuna SA says. “The pandemic has already changed life as we know it. We’re expecting growth from the job losses that have been experienced, but this depends entirely on the government opening up the economy fully, especially to international flights.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a proverbial spanner into the works of South Africa’s job market. It has also affected the education system and political ecosystem.

Professions that should stay safe post-lockdown

A large portion of the job losses we have seen up till now is going to be permanent. In the United States, up to 42% of the 40 million unemployment claims will be permanent job losses.

Some positions will be organically phased out, just as Industry 4.0 was set to do. But the impact from the COVID-19 crisis will spare the majority of careers within agriculture, finance, science, and technical sectors. Essential jobs are safe, for now. Positions that limit physical contact with others (and can be done from home) will likely also survive the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Positions that might not survive the lockdown

Careers that involve a lot of physical contact with others, those that are not deemed essential, and those that are shift-based might not survive. These include part-time employmentopportunities within the restaurant and catering industries. Brick-and-mortar shops not offering products that are entirely needed may find they must now sell online to avoid caving.

In May, Adzuna reported that cleaning positions (along with domestic worker positions) were down by -85%, and if the work-from-home trend holds up, there might not be a significant improvement in this sector any time soon.

COVID-19 impact on SA jobs

New opportunities created by the COVID-19 pandemic

While South Africa experienced an unprecedented drop in vacancies, new opportunities are also being created. By mid-June, there had been an exponential increase in remote working positions in South Africa. The number of COVID-19-related positions had also increased by over 200% since April.

The wearing of face masks has also become a socially mandated accessory, meaning that there is a new and rising demand for individuals that can produce face masks.

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.

With the impact of the pandemic, there have been significant shifts to online platforms and tools for continual learning and skills development. And this shift will likely create even more opportunities in the future.

Final notes

Even though some job markets in countries like France and Germany might be recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa’s outlook on employment is still not significantly taking a turn for the best.

With South Africa having record unemployment levels and the country bracing for the peak of the pandemic to hit in July and August, thousands (if not millions) of careers will be lost before the rocky road to recovery can start.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps South Africa will lose thousands of opportunities in “old” type vacancies. But upskilling and retraining oneself might open up countless doors of one’s work opportunities in life post-lockdown.