SKILLS GAP: Gov’t faces dilemma in streamlining labour market
*Johannes* is a human resources officer at a company based in Juba but owned by a foreign investor. Every time there is a job opening, and he advertises for positions, he has to conduct multiple interviews to get the right skills that he requires.
“Out of 20 that we shortlist, we may only end up with two who meet the required skills.” This is because some of the applicants do not demonstrate competence in the areas that they applied for, making it impossible to recruit them, “he says.
Johannes’ case is not isolated. While there are thousands of qualified nationals in various fields who are engaged in employment or businesses within and outside the country, the hiring process to fill positions is not a walk in the park for managers and recruiters.
Public Service and Human Resource Development Minister, Joseph Bangasi Bakosoro. recently said intensive capacity building to eradicate poor performance in government institutions remains a top priority for the country, adding that it will improve work output by reducing the high level of incompetence, and improve the efficiency and capacity of civil servants in the public sector.
According to Bakosoro, most position holders in the government’s institutions are incompetent because the majority graduated from universities without practical skills, rendering them incapable of executing their roles in the offices they hold.
“The issue of incapacity is a major challenge because of lack of skills,” Bakosoro said. “Now in public service, every young man or young woman who graduated from the university wants to appointed director general. They do not want to begin with Grade 9. They want only grade one or Grade two.”
He added, “We cannot do that and this country will never move an inch if we do not build the capacity of civil servants properly.” Therefore, it is a fight but we should not relax our muscles. We must fight that battle and then get rid of the short cut to civil service. “
Bakosoro was speaking during the inauguration of Berberi’s Academy for Training and Learning (BATL), a private institution to provide practical skills for fresh university graduates with skills in South Sudan.
He said, due to a lack of skills and capability, at least 150 South Sudanese recently failed to secure jobs in the East Africa bloc, emphasising that graduates, including civil servants, should join BATL to acquire knowledge and practical skills.
“About 150 South Sudanese applied for the jobs, some for ICT, accountants, middle managers, etc., and when they were shortlisted, all the 150 South Sudanese failed. This is a living example that finishing university is not enough. This academy will help us to get practical skills and knowledge,”
“I know “Mr. knows all”. So many of us assume that we know all, sincerely, we do not know all, and learning has no end. That is why your slogan is “learning without margin” that is why we need to come here to excel in one thing or another. The better we have capable, manageable civil servants in the country, the country will run smoothly,” said Bakosoro.
In mid-June, the Minister of Labor and Industrial Relations, General James Hoth Mai, faulted national and international NGOs as well as private companies for failing to honor constitutional requirement that 80 per cent of work force be from South Sudan nationals.
“Right now, we’re gathering information on anyone who works with NGOs, businesses, or other sectors. We’re gathering data right now. Yes, there are grievances. And this is one of our responsibilities as the minister of labor, including the implementation of minimum wages, which will address some of these issues,” he said.
Other regulations he cited as having been flouted by NGOs and private companies include lower pay for national workers, non-compliance with the 80 percent rule and giving expatriates roles that locals can execute. He said some expatriates were working without valid work permits.
He said that there is time for those businesses to seek counsel and follow the regulations before the government take action against them.
The law requires that every employee be entitled to equal remuneration for work of equal value, whereby equal value of work requires of workers a comparable amount of knowledge attested to by a qualification, or work experience, capacities derived from acquired experience, responsibilities and physical or intellectual effort.
“Any unilateral decision by an employer or group of employers and any provisions of any agreement of whatever nature, which contravenes the provisions of this section shall be deemed null and void. The rate of remuneration of employees who have been prejudiced by any discriminatory decision or agreement shall be replaced by the rate of remuneration attributed by virtue of that decision or agreement to the other employees,” reads Labor Act 2017 in part.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) describes South Sudan labor market context as that characterized by young labor market, low productivity – working poverty, 80 per cent dependent on oil for revenue, Upcoming manufacturing and construction, and lastly ,a shortage of labor market information.
International Growth Centre (IGC) notes that South Sudan has a notable lack of marketable skills, represented by low levels of schooling and technical and vocational skills.
“The main message is that South Sudan should focus on increasing the skills of the domestic work force, improving the standard of living generated by unpaid work, and building institutional capacity to provide a market for skilled work by encouraging productive foreign investment,” reads a report by IGC, an organization that focuses on building effective growth policies in developing countries instead of imported solutions.