People With Disabilities Are An Untapped Resource In Today's Skills Starved Economy

08-Sep-2011 | News-Press Release

The employment of people with disabilities should not be seen as merely a social responsibility exercise but as a genuine avenue of sourcing qualified and hard-working people in today’s skills-starved environment.  This is the view of TalentOcean, the online talent management division of wokforce management solutions company the Kelly Group. 

Online marketing manager Jennifer Mathews says the skills shortage in South Africa is a very real concern.  “According to Productivity SA and the 2007 IMD World Competiveness yearbook, South Africa had the worst skills shortage of 55 countries surveyed,” she says. 

In addition, The Sunday Times on 30 March 2008 said that “South Africa must find at least 115 000 IT professionals before the World Cup,” and “By 2015, South Africa faces a shortage of 94 000 teachers,” but “only 4 000 new teachers enter the job market each year against a need of 20 000.”  Similarly, the South African Institute for Chartered Accountants (SAICA) says the country is short of 20 000 chartered accountants. 

“The situation has been further exacerbated by the continuing brand drain,” says Mathews.  South Africa’s Institute for Race Relations estimates that around 800 000 skilled South Africans emigrated between 1995 and 2005.  It went on to say that the option to emigrate is most popular among people aged between 18 and 44, representing not only South Africa’s current workforce but its future skills set as well.  The research undertaken also showed that the decision to emigrate is no longer the preserve for whites:  the number of blacks and coloureds considering emigration shot up by 20% and 30% respectively in 2008.

 “The scarcity of skills is not just a South African problem.  Worldwide, 7 out of 10 managers report that skills shortages are their most pressing problem,” says Mathews. 

There is limited reliable information available on the number of people with disabilities in South Africa.  The government uses an estimate of between 5 and 12% of the total population in their Integrated Disability Strategy White Paper.  

“If the current population sits at about 47 million, the amount of people with disabilities in the country must number between 235 000 and 564 000.  If, according to the 2001 census – the most recent statistic available to us, 80% of people with a disability are unemployed, that means there are between 188 000 and 451 200 people that could be brought into the country’s workforce,” she says. 

The Employment Equity Act of 1998 says that 2% of a company’s workforce must be represented by employees with a disability.  The Act recognises many disabling conditions including arthritis, brain injury, cancer, chronic pain, cumulative trauma disorders, HIV/AIDS, multiple chemical sensitivity, sight impairments, development disabilities, diabetes, epilepsy, hearing loss, blindness, heart conditions, multiple sclerosis, psychiatric impairment and wheelchair users. 

The Kelly Group has partnered a number of NGOs catering for people with disabilities.  Mathews says that group’s partners will meet with clients to help address the psychological barriers employers and staff might face when employing people with disabilities.  “As part of the education process, our partners will cover the ‘Code of Good Practice on Key Aspects of Disability in the Workplace’, which is a guide for promoting fair treatment and reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities,” she says. 

To find out more information about Talent Ocean  visit us at

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