The Future is Looking Bleak for the Unskilled South African – You Have to Get Some Sort of Qualification to Get Ahead

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It is your turn to make an effort

Walking through the streets of Woodstock Cape Town, at 7 o’clock in the morning the streets are abuzz with people going to work and kids going to school. I notice that there are groups of men scattered all along Salt River Road ready to begin the work day, as I head towards Salt River Station I notice even more men and women this time just outside the station. One thing stands out for me, I am supposedly in South Africa but so far along my walk most people that I have come across are not South African (by origin anyways), I start thinking: “Where are all the South Africans?”

The reality in Cape Town and I assume in the rest of South Africa is that poor black people cannot afford to live in town close to the work environment thanks to the scattered Apartheid design of residential areas for the different races. This means that South Africans from the “locations” have to travel by buses, taxis, and trains (in Joburg and Cape Town). This adds extra costs (travel costs which are not often considered by people who hire unskilled labour), our brothers and sisters from other African countries who reside here in SA often stay as close as possible to the CBD or other places of employment which gives them an advantage. They (our African counterparts) have come a long way and are often desperate to find a means to survive therefore they are hardworking and are willing to work for less which means your average businessman in the city who is trying to keep his costs down is more likely to hire them over you the poor South African who is perceived as not as hardworking and who demands higher pay as you have to take a lot of things into consideration.

The Changing South African Employment Landscape

Prior to the 2010 world cup in my small town back in KZN there used to be a mixture between South African barbers from the hood and African Barbers, but after 2010 that started to change drastically, it’s rare to find South African guys cutting hair in town anymore (maybe in the hood but in town they are outnumbered 5 is to 1 [this may be an exaggeration but you get my point]. Since my arrival here in Cape Town I have never seen a Xhosa guy or a Coloured guy cutting hair in CBD or the areas populated by students, all the salons on the main road are foreign owned/run. I can only guess that the reason for this is that South African’s don’t have start-up capital to rent in the CBD and the Southern Suburbs, you find that the Africans who run salons in these areas also stay in the same building to minimize cost, it may be that we South Africans don’t want to move away from the hood (even though moving from the hood and staying in our rented salons would mean we can compete with the African run businesses). The other thing that comes to mind is that at least in the salon business, South African’s may be charging more for their services and their competitors are willing to offer services for cheaper (people with connections do better).

Moving away from the salon or barbershop example now I will use another example. I have noticed that franchises, bars and clubs here hire a full African staff, it’s not uncommon to go to a restaurant and you find that all the staff are Zimbabwean for example. Again I assume that it’s because people from other African countries are willing to work longer for less.

Not all companies are the same though, major national stores still prioritize hiring South Africans first, for example banks and clothing’s stores like Markham, Foschini etc.

So What Does That Mean For The Average South African & The Recent Matriculant

It means welcome to the big bad world, where it will be harder for you to find a decent well-paying job without any qualifications. Not only are you competing with other unskilled South Africans, but you are competing with people from other African countries who are willing to work harder for less. The future is not looking very bright for the lazy, this is the time of the hustler, the go getter. Are you a go getter? If not, you better change now or you will remain poor your entire life. If you were not serious in high school it’s time to wake up now and do something to gains skills. There are many ways to gain skills, the government has a lot of funding for people who want to learn whether its’ through Nsfas for those who make it to tertiary institutions, municipal bursaries or learnerships in government owned companies like Eskom, Transnet and other big private companies like Coca Cola and Toyota (I can think of many more examples of companies, the point is to do research!). It is up to you to go to these companies and enquire about the opportunities available to you. It’s time to change the mentality of thinking just because you are South African the government should give you jobs, the government’s responsibility is to provide an environment conducive to employment and that may not always mean them providing employment directly.

This was just an observation and opinion piece, I hope that some of the thoughts I have shared resonate with you and are able to give you that extra nudge to go enquire and start taking your future into your own hands.

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