FILE PHOTO: Man holds laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture. Several sectors in South Africa's economy are experiencing critical skill shortages, with information and technology.

JOHANNESBURG - Several sectors in South Africa's economy are experiencing critical skill shortages, with information and technology, engineering, finance and health the most affected, a recent critical skills survey by Xpatweb shows.

The survey comes against the backdrop of the official unemployment rate rising to 29 percent in the second quarter of the year, according to Statistics South Africa, the highest it has been since the launch of a quarterly labour force survey 11 years ago.

The Xpatweb survey shows that the country is currently in desperate need of information and communications technology (ICT) specialists, engineers, artisans, senior financial executives, health sector workers, executive managers, specialists & academics, mining executives, risk managers and foreign language speakers.

"IT specialists and engineers remain top of the list of skills that are most difficult to find. Occupations in high demand in terms of the health sector, artisans, finance and ICT specialist have all increased this year," it said.

It cited World Health Organisation data showing South Africa had an average of one doctor and one nurse per 1,000 patients.

Xpatweb said IT specialists were becoming highly sought-after in the wake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), with a report published by the World Economic Forum showing that 35 percent of skills considered important in today’s workforce would have changed over the next five years.

"By 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have brought us advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology and genomics," it said.

Xpatweb said South Africa had a shortfall of about 40,000 qualified artisans in 2017, forcing it to import skilled artisans from various countries to complete time sensitive projects.

"The Xpatweb survey results show that this still remains an issue, with 14.15 percent of the respondents indicating that it is difficult to find skilled artisans," it said. "This represents an increase of 45 percent from last year."

Employers had to compete locally and internationally for skilled talent, increasingly placing pressure on organisations. The survey showed that 62 percent of participants blamed South Africa's visa process as the greatest prohibitor to recruiting internationally.

Xpatweb, in existence for over 14 years, includes over 70 immigration specialists, mobility practitioners, tax practitioners, attorneys, and chartered accountants who offer expatriate and work visa solutions.

- African News Agency (ANA)