16 June 2022 

Written by Petunia Matlala - Lecturer: School of Commerce

Youth of South Africa stand on the brink of a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) evolving at an exponential pace, characterised by technological revolution with breakthroughs in the fields of robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things, and much more. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has transformed how we do things; even higher education and consumers' shopping habits have shifted. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated an already fast-changing world, where technologies like AI and automation continue to disrupt labour markets and bring structural change.

The job market is constantly changing, and technology-driven careers are becoming increasingly popular. Digital innovation changes the nature of existing jobs, often amplifying and diversifying the scope of tasks and responsibilities, such as problem-solving, multi-tasking, and collaboration. It has inevitably increased the range of expected skills and knowledge from employees. BusinessTech (2020) published that “Standard Bank end of 2019 financials reported 44,996 permanent employees, down from 47,419 in line with the group’s digital strategy to downscale branches and physical banking points of presence.” That created an uncertain future for many retrenched employees.

Stats SA (2022) confirms that, “the graduate unemployment rate remains low in South Africa compared to those of other educational levels, and unemployment among the youth continues to be a burden, irrespective of educational attainment. Year on year, the unemployment rate among young graduates (aged 15-24 years) declined from 40,3% to 32,6%, while it increased by 6,9 percentage points to 22,4% for those aged 25-34 years in Q1: 2022". The statement brings us to today’s most in-demand skills:  Cloud computing, big data and e-commerce look set to remain focal points for big business, along with advances in digital encryption, non-humanoid robots, and AI.

Throughout history, we have seen hesitation and reluctance regarding drastic technological changes. However, how do we react now that change characterises our day-to-day work and life processes? The primary takeaway here is that digital interruption is the new normal of modern reality. Youth need to critically re-assess their readiness to ignite in the digital workplace.


BusinessTech. 2020. Standard Bank boss talks job cuts and branch closures in pursuit of digital transformation. [Online] Available at: https://businesstech.co.za/news/banking/391631/standard-bank-boss-talks-job-cuts-and-branch-closures-in-pursuit-of-digital-transformation/ [Accessed: 13-06-2022]

Stats SA. 2022. South Africa’s youth continues to bear the burden of unemployment. [Online] Available at: https://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=15407#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20Quarterly%20Labour,stands%20at%2034%2C5%25 [Accessed: 13-06-2022]