The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

October 2022

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Agricultural employment in South Africa: What do we need to put in place now to create the desired future?

  • Institute for Futures Research, Stellenbosch Business School
  • Oct 2022

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The future of job creation in the South African agricultural sector is a complex one. The issue is not only clouded by the country’s political history, but also by the real need to transform the sector. So far, only limited success has been achieved. 

According to South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP), the agricultural sector needs to create 1 000 000 jobs by 2030. Current employment in the agricultural sector is below 900 000 jobs while employment growth in this sector remains stagnant. At the same time, technology and automation are reducing the need for certain jobs in agriculture.

Reliance on subsistence and small-scale agriculture may be understandable from a labour intensity perspective, but such jobs may not appeal to the youth and may not be sustainable considering issues of land degradation and vulnerability to climate change often associated with small-scale agriculture. 

Even where such jobs are created, they may not fit into the International Labour Organization’s definition of decent work. While technology is decreasing the number of on-farm jobs being created in agriculture, it is creating new opportunities that are also not as closely tied to the use of agricultural land (or as climate dependent). Both of these aspects may enable easier (and faster) gains in land-based agricultural reform. 

Reviewing the country’s agricultural linkages and infrastructure, identifying gaps that are limiting expansion and targeting specific initiatives may be low-hanging fruit that can unlock jobs that require somewhat more skilled employees (and that are more likely to appeal to the unemployed youth). 

By broadening agricultural strategies and plans to include new areas and ventures, the country could enhance the resilience of its agricultural sector and further diversify its approach to ensuring food security.

The report starts with an environmental scan to understand the current context of agriculture in South Africa. It also covers barriers to employment in agriculture, various scenarios, skills for the future and an appropriate approach.

This report was produced by Institute for Futures Research at Stellenbosch Business School, in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry, and the University of Cape Town’s Development Policy’s Research Unit.

Read the report

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