News roundup

Restitution is for everyone

CEO Crain Soudien in conversation with head of research, Professor Leickness Simbayi and Dr Wiseman Magasela, deputy director-general: Research and Policy Development, Department of Social Development. Credit: HSRC.

A conference, a first of its kind, on restitution and what it means will take place from 9 to 10 November, at the fitting venue of the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town. It aims to answer questions such as what restitution is, how it can be achieved by individuals, communities and institutions, and what is needed to ensure a future where there is something for everyone – to have, to do, and to give.

The conference is co-hosted by the Restitution Foundation, the Human Sciences Research Council and the Castle of Good Hope, along with our partners and patrons.

Thuli Madonsela, Public Protector, speaker at a leadership conference for women. Credit: Trevor Samson.Business Day.

Says Sharlene Swartz, one of the organisers: ‘Restitution is a difficult, restless and provocative word. It speaks about confronting injustice and actively deciding what needs to be done to address a past that continues to erode the present despite our many efforts. While it includes the problem of land and socio-economic redress, restitution ultimately aims at restoring dignity, a sense of belonging and all our“humanity”.’

Individuals, practitioners and academics in all sectors – community development, sociology, business, education, psychology, economics – as well as across all our divides, whether religious, racial, political, geographical or generational, have been invited.

‘The theme Something for everyone…to do, to have, to be, is a culmination of years of reflection regarding why we are not yet the country we all so badly want to be,’ says Swartz.

‘The conference will start with a pilgrimage to help remind all why restitution is so needed – conquest, enslavement, greed, violence, domination – these are all graphically visible at the Castle in Cape Town.’

Speakers at the opening ceremony include Advocate Thuli Madonsela, the former Public Protector, her daughter Wenzile, the general secretary of the EFF at the University of Pretoria, Mrs Nomonde Calata, the widow of Fort Calata, one of the Cradock 4 murdered by the Security Police, and the first person to testify at the TRC, and her son Lukhanyo, one of the eight SABC journalists who protested against recent censorship by our public broadcaster and who was fired and subsequently reinstated; and Leon Wessels, a cabinet minister in the apartheid administration and subsequently a member of the South African Human Rights Commission, and his daughter Erika, a member of the Black Sash.

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Skills policy in South Africa

Dr Vijay Reddy

The South African labour force is made up of 15 million employed and 7.5 million unemployed people. Three quarters of the employed and 90% of the unemployed are from the African population group. Unemployment is also particularly high among young people (15 - 34 years) and this is increasing as more young people join the labour force. This is according to a comprehensive report, Skills supply and demand in South Africa, released in September.

The report says education level and skill base of the labour force is lower than that of many other productive economies. Of the employed population, 20% have a tertiary qualification, 32% have completed secondary education, and close to half of the workforce do not have a grade 12 certificate. Sixty percent of the unemployed have less than a grade 12 certificate. This translates to 11.75 million of the labour force with less than a grade 12 certificate.

The three main findings from the research are:

•    Economy and the demand for skills:

The South African economy has been characterised by low economic growth rates, leading to poor employment growth. The sectors in which people work and the types of jobs available are changing. There is an absence of low-wage jobs in the manufacturing sector that could absorb the vast majority of unemployed who are looking for work. There has been a structural shift towards a service economy and a high dependence on high-skilled financial services.

The financial services sector contributes towards growing the country’s GDP, but offers negligible opportunities for employment growth. The only sector experiencing significant employment growth is the state sector and this is not sustainable.

There is a structural mismatch between labour demand and supply: the economy and labour market shows a demand for high-skilled workers but there is a surplus of low-skilled workers. The economy must respond to the twin challenge of participating in a globally competitive environment which requires a high skills base and a local context that creates low-wage jobs to absorb the large numbers who are unemployed or in vulnerable jobs. The economy should create more labour-intensive forms of growth in order to absorb the growing levels of people, particularly young people, as first time labour market entrants.

•    Education and supply of skills:

A critical constraint for the post-school education and training system and the labour market is the quality of basic education. Success in the school subjects of languages, mathematics and science forms the basis for participation and success in technical subjects in post-school education and training institutions, and in the workplace. Even an economy based on a low skill trajectory will require a workforce that has achieved the school leaving certificate and gained basic numeracy and literacy skills.

Presently, each year around 140 000 grade 12 students complete the matriculation examination with a bachelor’s pass, and of these only around 50 000 students pass mathematics with a score higher than 50%. The pool of students who can potentially access university and science-based TVET programmes is very small, in comparison to the skill demands in the country.

The university and TVET college sub-systems are the largest components of the post-school education and training system. In 2014, there were around 1.1 million students in the university sector and 0.8 million students in the TVET sector. Since 2010 the TVET sector has been expanding at an average rate of 23% per annum and the university sector has been expanding at an average rate of 2.1% per annum.

Completion rates at both universities and TVET colleges are less than desirable in that in 2014 there were 185 000 completers from the university sector, 21 000 NCV4 and 57 000 NATED 6 programme completers from the TVET sector.

Access to school, universities and TVET colleges has improved. However, quality remains elusive, leading to low progression through institutions as well as low completion rates from schools, TVET colleges and universities. The skills development focus should not only be on a small number of skilled people in the workplace, but also on the unemployed, the youth, low-skilled people, the marginalised, and those in vulnerable forms of employment, including the self-employed.

•    The link between the tertiary education and the labour market destination:

Nearly half of the higher education graduates are employed in the community, social and personal services sector, which is dominated by the public sector. A high proportion of the science and engineering graduates, from both higher and technical and vocational education sectors, prefer to work in the financial services sector, as opposed to the manufacturing sector. SET qualifications are versatile and graduates will move into different fields of work. The implication for skills planning is that we need a higher number of SET graduates than needed by the SET occupations.

These positions offer graduates a good salary and conditions of service. Unfortunately, this is distorting the labour market and not attracting graduates to the private sector. The private sector must review its human resource strategies to attract more graduates to the sector.

In conclusion

The dilemma facing policy makers is how to respond to these diverse sets of development and occupational pathways, and decide how resources should be targeted for inclusive skills development. These imperatives may seem paradoxical, but all are essential to achieve a more inclusive growth and development trajectory.

Download the full report from The report was compiled by Dr Vijay Reddy, Prof Haroon Bhorat, Dr Marcus Powell, Ms Mariette Visser and Mr Fabian Arends.

Social scientists gather to find ways of tackling poverty and inequality

Minister Naledi Pandor

Under the theme, ‘Poverty and inequality: diagnosis, prognosis, responses’, 250 HSRC social scientists gathered at the Indaba Hotel from 22 to 23 September to reflect on key research into poverty and inequality.
HSRC CEO Crain Soudien said the conference was designed as another step in the process of deepening reflections on the theme of the HSRC strategic plan – ‘Poverty and inequality: diagnosis, prognosis, responses’.

Professor Murray Leibrandt

‘It is also intended as a space for scholarly and research-based exchanges to take place among all HSRC researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, theoretical orientations, and research programmes and institutes.’

The objectives of this conference include stimulating collaboration, networking and debate among all HSRC researchers and creating an awareness of the range of current and planned research work in the HSRC.
‘Particular emphasis is on creating opportunities for up-and-coming researchers to present their work and to engage with their colleagues,’ he said.

Keynote speakers included Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor and Professor Murray Leibbrandt from the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town and director of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit. He holds the DST/NRF National Research Chair of Poverty and Inequality Research.

The event boasted around 150 presentations spread across seven parallel sessions and a closing plenary session consisting of reflections on the key themes and further research questions emerging from the discussions in parallel sessions. The vast majority of participants (close to 95%) are researchers working in six different research programmes, spread over five different centres across South Africa.

The next HSRC Review intends to focus on the outcome of this conference, so watch this space.