Despite it being a legislative requirement, several government departments on Wednesday (20 February) denied responsibility for drawing up and publishing the National Scarce and Critical Skills List - indicating the confusion that resulted after President Jacob Zuma increased the number of ministries in 2009.
The Department of Home Affairs, which used to determine which skills SA needed the most, pointed fingers at the Department of Labour for failing to update the list, which in turn blamed the Department of Higher Education and Training, saying it had taken responsibility for the list in 2010.
The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry said business used the list to recruit foreign staff and address the national challenges of skills development and unemployment.
The Chamber's chief executive Neren Rau said the list also helped the country, especially its tertiary institutions, to focus on skills development programmes that "increase the number of graduates in those crucial areas".
He said business had been under pressure to increase employment opportunities for locals, despite tough economic conditions. This was why there had not been an outcry about the failure to update the list.
The Department of Higher Education and Training did not respond to requests for comment.Identify critical skills
Centre for Development and Enterprise research director Antony Altbeker said that, according to legislation, it was still the responsibility of the Department of Home Affairs to liaise with relevant government departments to identify critical skills.
"SA had no clear strategy on how to address labour shortages, immigration or work permit applications and these appeared to be resolved on a case-by-case basis, he said.
"SA has a serious scarcity of skills. To effectively address it government must define skills broadly and allow recruitment that would lead to skills transfer, to grow our economy," Altbeker said.
"We should not have a policy that grudgingly invites small numbers of highly specialised people. Even if the government allowed the not-so-highly skilled to come to SA, experience shows they are often entrepreneurial and seldom take jobs performed by locals."
Former home affairs minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the first minister tasked with determining skills needs, said SA was four years behind in its knowledge of labour market needs.
"I am sure that the home affairs minister, having previously been the education minister, appreciates the nexus between identifying needed skills and producing the right skills through our education system," he said.
Buthelezi said a provision in the Immigration Act required the home affairs minister to consult with the departments of labour and trade and industry annually and publish a national scarce and critical skills list.
The purpose was to determine which foreign professionals would be allowed into SA "to ensure that the country's skills base grew in harmony with the needs of our economy".
"It also created a valuable tool to determine where the focus should be placed in producing skills through tertiary institutions, to ensure that our own citizens could be equipped to fill existing gaps in the labour market," Buthelezi said.
Source: Business Day
via I-Net Bridge