Future of the workforce and implications for South Arica

The structure of organisations has evolved at a slow pace since the beginning of the Twentieth Century.  The advent of a hypercompetitive, globalised world with new centres of power and changing demographics coupled with the disruptive effect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, forces a significant rethink of organisations, structure, resourcing and ways of operating. 

Organisations increasingly need to be agile, to drive down costs and access the best possible talent, irrespective of whether employed, contingent, outsourced or part of the emerging gig economy. This requires a structural backbone that differentiates the important jobs to be done and integrates them in a seamless, aligned manner. The systemic nature of organisation design, including structure, has the potential to become an important strategic differentiator and form of competitive advantage.

The implications of the future world of work lie beyond organisations. The accelerated automation of work, physical and cognitive, threatens employment and consequentially the social contract underpinning society. South Africa with its fragile society and high rate of unemployment, is particularly at risk.

There is a strong indication that South Africa will potentially benefit from the increased consumption benefits of a future demographic dividend.  Alternatively, if it is not able to create sufficient gainful employment, it faces the prospect of potential social unrest lead by the youth who have no vested stake in a system that that does not benefit them.

There is however an important proviso to the opportunities that present themselves. If organisations do not develop the skills and competencies required for jobs newly augmented by technology or for the new emergent job classifications, we face the prospect of those jobs becoming outsourced because of a lack of availability of skills or being remotely transferred on-line to locations such as India or China. Accenture believes that South Africa should timeously address this issue and double the speed at which workforces acquire the relevant skills for this new era of work. If this was done, there could be a reduction in the number of jobs at risk from twenty percent (three point five million jobs) to just fourteen percent (two point five million jobs). Being able to build these skills faster than other countries also introduces the possibility of South Africa as a country gaining significant competitive advantage and thereby growing employment by remotely importing work and jobs. (Accenture Consulting. Creating South Africa’s Future Workforce, 2018)

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