SOUTH Africa has sunk to 69th position among emerging economies globally, primarily because of its increasing unemployment, as well as wealth and income inequality, low life expectancy and large carbon footprint, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Inclusive Development Index says.
A five-year trend analysis suggests South Africa’s healthcare and carbon intensity levels are improving, however, per capita growth and labour productivity are still on a downtrend.
In addition, the South African workplace will be influenced by the disruptions from the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is the next phase of technological development that will introduce automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and biotechnological advances to increase the longevity of our working lives. This year, the meeting of the WEF in Davos gave emerging economies a much more visible platform.
A question arising for Anne CabotAlletzhauser, head of Alexander Forbes Research Institute and Lesiba Mothata, executive chief economist at Alexander Forbes Investments, is whether the path to achieve economic growth and stimulus today should follow the same trajectory as it did historically for more developed economies.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa last week mounted a very specific campaign at WEF 2018 to rekindle foreign investor confidence in the country, however Cabot-Alletzhauser said South Africa’s reality, politics aside, was that its future success would be intertwined with the success of its private sector. “Addressing issues such as unemployment and economic growth means South African companies must hold their own in a rapidly changing global workplace – and at a time when social cohesion and social mobility are being challenged,” she said.
Mothata said South Africa was in an “unenviable” position compared to other African nations. According to the WEF, South Africa is highly exposed to the global technological trends, but possesses a low capacity to deal with such tectonic shifts.
“Due to its second-to-last position on the continent in terms of the quality of education and high unemployment, South Africa is poorly positioned to meet these global challenges. “The WEF has estimated, for example, that as many as 77% of our current jobs stand to be impacted by these changes. “How ready will our workplaces be for such destabilising influences?” Cabot-Alletzhauser and Mothata’s report read. The two experts call for South Africa to consider solutions to address social challenges and not just economic challenges.
“Concepts such as the gig economy (where employees elect to hold multiple jobs or jump from one job to the next), the sharing/collaborative economy (where the whole value chain of production is likely to be disrupted) and the reality that workers are still productive long after reaching their mandated retirement dates, all point to a world where “retirement benefits” and “employer/employee relations” need to be reconceptualised,” they said.