Studies of priority sectors

The Labour Market Intelligence Partnership's research agenda is organised in six priority areas. Each research area has a leading subject specialist or team at its helm and a unique objective, design and methodology.

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Credit: HB

Learn more about research leader Prof. Haroon Bhorat of the University of Cape Town 

Context and research objectives

Economic growth in the long run is driven primarily by two factors: increased stock of factor inputs (such as capital or labour) and increased productivity through technological change.

Since the 1970s, South Africa’s aggregate experience was similar to that of other developing countries with a steady increase in aggregate output, driven by an increasing stock of labour and/or capital, most notably in the 1970s and 1980s.

From the 1990s we see the rapidly rising role of technology in the growth process.

It can be argued that in the last two decades, technological innovation has been one of the most important determinants of South Africa’s growth level and trajectory.

It is clear, however, that the nature of this economic growth path in South Africa has had a profound impact on the nature and trajectory of the economy’s labour demand patterns.

The type of economic growth experienced by South Africa since the 1970s and well beyond 1994 has had a fundamental impact on the nature of employment movements at the sectoral and occupational level.

In turn, this pattern of employment has been crucial in inadvertently defining and characterising the returns to households and individuals on the basis of their human capital attributes

Therefore, the nature of sectoral and occupational labour demand trends, given South Africa’s economic growth path, has defined much of the debate around skills shortages, high levels of unemployment and the need for a more equitable growth path.

In such a context, understanding the drivers for both labour-intensity and economic growth at a sectoral level is crucial.

The objective of the research in this area of the LMIP is to aid empirical understanding of the critical link between sectoral growth, employment and poverty reduction in South Africa.

Design and methodology

The research agenda centres on a set of four skills needs, employment and growth outcome sectoral projects, each with a number of sub-projects.

The first set of projects provides an empirical overview of skills-biased employment demand in relation to growth trajectories.

The second project sets out to assess and understand the implications of the job creation targets set in the New Growth Path.

The third project, which is at the heart of the research, is a process to design a template to institutionalise a new nationally critical dataset – data to inform understanding of SETA labour markets.

Researchers have begun the process to pilot a SETA labour market survey.

Such a dataset will provide the DHET, SETAs and other stakeholders with a regularised, statistically robust and analytically sound SETA dataset at firm level.

The capacity to understand drivers of change in priority economic sectors, how that is likely to affect the demands of skills at different levels, and how this relates to current and future education supply is critical to the effective functioning of SETAs.

A SETA labour market information system can inform accurate and detailed skills planning and provision, such as Workplace Skills Plans (WSPs) and Sector Skills Plans (SSPs).

Three of the key outputs will be a template survey, a template for the methodology of conducting the survey, as well as a template to guide the analysis of the data collected through the survey.

It is envisaged that the survey will become institutionalised in the new Labour Market Information System.

The fourth project studies how the provision of appropriate skills to the micro-enterprise sector can improve performance and growth.

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