Universities produce wrong kind of graduates: analyst

SKILLS WE NEED: Management, engineering, law, finance, accounting and medicine

Universities are producing the wrong kind of graduates to redress South Africa’s high unemployment rate, a labour analyst says.

“There are currently nearly 600,000 unemployed university graduates in South Africa, mostly in the arts, humanities and social sciences,” said Adcorp labour market analyst Loane Sharp in a statement. “Whereas the private sector has more than 800,000 vacancies in management, engineering, law, finance, accounting and medicine.”   

Sharp said some professional bodies also restricted entry into their fields through the standards they set, often in concert with universities. This was typically backed by legislative and regulatory requirements.

Sharp said, for example, the General Council of the Bar, the law  societies, the Health Professions Council of SA and the Institute of Chartered Accountants set their own criteria — like exams and low-paid articleship or housemanship — as a prerequisite for entry  into the professions. “By contrast, fields such as physics, finance, engineering, economics and management do not have professional bodies,” he said.

A supplementary analysis to the Adcorp Employment Index released  on Tuesday found that government handouts, trade unions and affirmative action were negatively affecting the desire to work in South Africa.

“As many as 10.2 million South Africans — one in five —  receive grants of one form or another, amounting to 14.9 million grants or 1.5 grants per recipient, yielding average annual transfers of R9539 per beneficiary,” Sharp said.

Referring to Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey, Sharp said 43% of unemployed people were willing to accept a  job, if offered, when they were living off their own savings.

In contrast, only 11% of people would accept a job if they were supported by social grants and welfare.

“Unemployed people are also more likely to remain out of work if  they are supported by social grants and welfare: the average duration of unemployment is 16 months for people who do not receive  grants, compared to 21 months for people who do.”   

Sharp said trade unions also appeared to discourage work.

“Only 9.3% of unionised workers, as opposed to 17.8 percent of non-unionised workers, are prepared to work additional hours in a given week. “And, of those who will do so, unionised workers are prepared to  work an additional 0.9 hours a week compared to 2.4 hours a week for non-unionised workers.”   

The index showed that affirmative action also discouraged some job seekers.

Highly qualified whites were substantially less likely than blacks to find a job within 12 months of initiating a job search.    

For job-seekers with a tertiary qualification, blacks were 34 percent more likely to find work than whites.

“This has contributed to the higher percentage of whites operating their own businesses.    

“Business owners’ share of national income increased from 39.9 percent in 1995 to 47.2% in 2011, while employees’ share has correspondingly declined,” Sharp said.