Who Owns Whom

One cannot discuss labour and recruitment services in South Africa without touching on the issue of high unemployment that looms large, particularly among the youth. The labour market has become complex globally. It is essential to examine the role of emerging industries, new trends in recruitment methods and recruiters’ contribution to economic activity and growth.

The causes of high unemployment

Several factors contribute to South Africa’s persistent unemployment challenge, with youth unemployment rates often exceeding 50%. Structural issues such as inefficient transport infrastructure and unreliable power supply due to failing state owned entities, contribute to a stagnating economy and as a result limit opportunities, particularly for poor communities who do not have relevant skills demanded by employers – a legacy of the apartheid era economic disparities. Quality education and vocational training programmes exacerbates the problem, leaving many young people ill-equipped to compete in the job market.

Red tape and stringent labour laws imposed on employers also hinder job creation efforts and entrench the unemployment crisis. According to the WOW report on labour and recruitment services, Derek Yu of the University of the Western Cape paints a dire picture of the labour market, saying that 50% of unemployed people had an education level lower than Grade 12. The youth unemployment rate at 44.3% or six million people, masks a higher number as the labour participation rate is only about 60%.

Solutions for Youth Unemployment

Structural reforms aimed at creating a conducive business environment, streamlining regulatory processes, and incentivising investment are critical to stimulating job creation.

Investments in education and vocational training programmes must be prioritised to equip young people with the skills and competencies needed to thrive in the workforce. Collaborations between government, educational institutions and the private sector can facilitate the design of tailored training programmes, apprenticeships, and internships that bridge the skills gap and enhance employability. Every measure counts to improve the current situation of exceptionally high unemployment.

Removing red-tape and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can unlock new opportunities for youth employment and economic empowerment. Initiatives that provide access to finance, mentorship, and market linkages empower young entrepreneurs to establish and grow their businesses, contributing to job creation and economic resilience. These ideas have been tabled by government, but the implementation has been lacklustre and hampered by corrupt activities.

Evolving methods and channels of recruitment

In the not-too-distant past, recruitment was largely done by recruitment agencies. They continue to play an important role by using online platforms to compete with new entrants. These platforms disrupted the industry through contact searches and link-ups that utilise algorithms to match candidates to roles.

The evolving nature of jobs, including remote working, enabled by online communication and video conferencing, affordable rates, have widened the market reach for recruitment agencies. This has also enabled international recruitment agencies to scout our local markets for talent.

The recruitment industry in South Africa is not very favourable for recruitment agencies. Low GDP growth rates, obstructive rather than assistive government, failures in delivery of public services, and the terrible state of the education systems, all contribute to an uphill battle and need for resilience.

Harnessing the Potential of Emerging Industries

Emerging industries hold significant promise in reshaping South Africa’s labour market and driving sustainable economic growth. Sectors such as renewable energy, information technology, green infrastructure and digital services offer opportunities for job creation, skills development, and economic diversification.

Renewable energy projects, for example, require a skilled workforce for installation, maintenance, and operation, providing employment opportunities in areas such as solar and wind energy. Similarly, the burgeoning digital economy presents avenues for innovation and job creation, with demand for software developers, data analysts, and cybersecurity experts increasing.

Organisations can adopt evidence-based hiring practices, utilise data-driven assessments, and implement structured interview techniques. By relying on objective criteria and standardised evaluation methods, recruiters can minimise subjective biases and improve the accuracy of candidate selection.


In confronting the challenge of youth unemployment in South Africa, concerted efforts from all stakeholders are needed to create an inclusive and thriving labour market. Through targeted policy interventions, investments in education, skills development, and support for emerging industries, South Africa can unlock its full potential and provide meaningful opportunities for its youth as it navigates the complexities of the labour market more effectively, paving the way for a brighter future for generations to come.

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