Half of SA workforce fears job automation, but vast majority willing to retrain – survey

office worker south africa retrain

More than half of South Africa’s workforce feel threatened by the prospect of job automation, with the overwhelming majority willing to retrain.

That’s the finding of a new study by Boston Consulting Group published on 28 April.

While workers are threatened by automation, many are open to the idea of retraining for new jobs.

“The pandemic is another reminder— after the 2008 financial crisis—that there are always going to be events that threaten economies and require workers to adjust,” said study co-author Kate Kavanaugh.

“Workers have come to accept that their only real job security lies in their adaptability, which sometimes means shifting roles or even careers.”

The numbers around job automation fears in South Africa

The study, titled Decoding Global Reskilling and Career Paths, is the third in a series. The series by BCG explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the study, 53% of surveyed South Africans said they believed that the risk of their job being automated has increased. This is higher than the global average of 41% of those surveyed.

For added perspective, 31% of people working in automation and digitisation fields said they feared job automation. The global average for workers in these fields was 46%.

The career fields that experienced heightened automation concerns include finance, insurance, and telecommunications.

More than a third of people globally lost their jobs or had work hours reduced during the pandemic.

“The pandemic and the increasing speed of technological disruption have prompted people to question their chosen career paths,” said study co-author and senior partner at BCG, Rainer Strack.

However, 77% of South Africans said they were willing to retrain for a completely different job. The survey found that emerging countries such as South Africa are the most willing to retrain.

On the other hand, only 42% of highly educated workers are open to the idea of retraining. People in the fields of customer service and sales are the most willing to retrain for new jobs.

Meanwhile, people in medicine, social work, and science and research are not as willing.

The survey also found that 73% of workers in South Africa’s IT sectors were open to retraining for new jobs.

“This level of flexibility could help employers and governments that are worried about preparing their workforces for the future,” Strack added.

Feature image: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Read more: South Africans show a high preference for fully remote work – study

Sam Spiller, Staff Writer


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