A study by Stellenbosch Business School reveals 35% of jobs in South Africa are at risk from digital automation in the next seven years.
According to Dr Roze Phillips, managing director of Accenture Consulting in Africa, the effect on our economy could be crippling. ‘Our research shows that if South Africa can double the pace at which its workforce acquires skills relevant for human-machine collaboration, it can reduce the number of jobs at risk from 3.5 million (20%) in 2025 to just 2.5 million,’ she says.
In recent times, jobs were lost to economies where labour was cheaper, and those jobs do not always make it back to home soil, instead bolstering economies in the recipient countries. But the labour migration of the future will increasingly be to the digital sphere.
Roze adds: ‘It’s vital for the country to upskill its people to collaborate with machines to enhance their own productivity, not job losses.’
It’s not just manual or blue-collar jobs that are at risk, either. Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks are now, by nature of the activity involved, increasingly threatened. ‘The more predictable and repetitive the activities that make up the tasks,’ she explains, ‘the more likely it is to be replicated by machines or automated. The safest jobs are those that require influencing and advising people, teaching, programming, real-time discussions, negotiating and cooperating with co-workers.’
Six critical skills have been isolated as essential to securing and retaining a job in the digital age:
1. Learn to earn
Foundation skills are critical – literacy, numeracy and digital literacy as well as basic employability skills, such as appropriate conduct and work protocols (time management, listening, and negotiation).
2. Build tech know-how
The ability to use digital devices and share data, working effectively alongside machine intelligence, understanding how technology and data are built, manipulated and applied.
3. The ability to apply ‘WEQ’ (as opposed to IQ)
Social and relationship building will gain greater importance, with teamwork, collaboration, communication, social and emotional intelligence and ability to manage others, key drivers.
4. Creative and solve
Problem solving will require thinking unconventionally, gathering ideas from diverse sources and applying design thinking, critical thinking, reason and logic to assess and analyse problems, and entrepreneurial mindset.
5. Cultivate a growth mindset
The foundation blocks for personal resilience and ability to cope with and adapt to change require skills such as the ability to cultivate curiosity, openness, a growth mindset and the capacity for lifelong learning.
Specialised work skills will no longer be static or fixed in the digital economy. They’ll be rather more fluid, based on context, industry, market demand and type of work.
COMPILED BY JANINE COLLINS PHOTO: FOTOLIA.COM