Tech jobs unaffected by SA economic woes

Though the country faces an unemployment rate of close to 25 percent and economic growth negatively affected by striking miners, demand for ICT skills remains relatively unaffected in South Africa.

Arnold Graaf, CEO of IT recruitment agency Compuways, told BusinessTech that ICT was remaining strong in the face of widespread economic difficulties facing the country. The CareerJunction Index in June showed a 25 percent year-on-year growth in the sector.

“Information technology drives business – which drives the economy,” he said. “The ICT sector is definitely growing steadily since the recession from 2-3 years ago.”

The South African economy has been in turmoil in recent months, with strikes beginning to spread and the rand falling to a three-year low against the dollar. Rating agency Standard & Poor’s recently followed its rival Moody’s in downgrading the country’s rating by a notch, the first time such an event has taken place since the end of apartheid.

“In our view, the strikes in South Africa’s mining sector will likely feed into the political debate in the run-up to the 2014 elections, which may increase uncertainties related to the African National Congress’ future policy framework,” Standard & Poor said. Deutsche Bank analysts suggest more than 90,000 people – 30 percent of South Africa’s mining workforce – are currently on strike, which could result in the loss of 2.5 percent of South Africa’s GDP.

Yet the tech sector seems to have weathered these storms. Susan Rousseau, client development manager at recruitment agency Insource.ICT, told BusinessTech that economic conditions had not affected ICT employment and that the industry “has shown growth in key areas”.

“ICT recruitment has become more specialist as the IT industry has evolved,” she said. “Most of the players are specialist, niche agencies focused only on the recruitment of IT people.”

She said that prospects for educated, skilled IIT workers in the current market were “extremely favourable”.

“To expand the South African skills base, the IT industry needs to attract young, bright graduates who view IT as a long term career,” Rousseau said. This will be music to the ears of South Africa’s unemployed, particularly graduates. Statistics South Africa says the country has an unemployment rate at 24.9 percent, with university graduates badly affected.

“Despite overall levels of unemployment declining year-on-year, the number of unemployed persons increased by 24,000 among those with tertiary education,” Statistics South Africa said in its most recent report.

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