SA agriculture grows jobs towards 1 million target

In the first quarter of 2015, South Africa’s agriculture sector made significant headway towards meeting the target of creating one million additional jobs set for it by the National Development Plan.

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This was according to recent data, released by Stats SA. This indicated that in the first quarter of 2015, there were an estimated 183 000 more jobs in the sector than there had been in the first quarter of 2014. “Total employment in agriculture is currently estimated to be just under 900 000,” said Dawie Maree, FNB Agriculture spokesperson in his analysis of Stats SA’s data.

“Total employment in agriculture is currently estimated to be just under 900 000,” said Dawie Maree, FNB Agriculture’s head of information and marketing, in his analysis of Stats SA’s data.

Maree cautioned, however, that the sudden significant increase in jobs in the agricultural sector was most likely due to the fact that Stats SA had started using Census 2011 master data instead of that used previously from Census 2007. This may have skewed statistics by incorporating substantially more subsistence farmers into the agricultural employment figures than actual workers in the sector.

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“I think that we will only be able to get a clearer picture of agricultural employment after the next couple of quarters have passed,” Maree said.

He also warned that despite SA agriculture being a relatively labour intensive industry and, therefore, was anticipated to hold a prominent position in the national growth plan, there were “some stark realities” that government needed to consider before setting ambitious employment targets for any industry in an economy.

According to Maree, these stark realities for SA’s agricultural sector included labour costs, labour legislation, and the availability of appropriately skilled labour. He explained that farmers were expected to provide more to their labour in addition to wages, that labour legislation was becoming increasingly inflexible, and that increased mechanisation in agriculture required particular skills sets from the labour force.

“There is, therefore, definitely a need for education authorities to seriously consider the future of agricultural colleges in order for these institutions to contribute to the education of specialised agricultural professionals,” Maree said.

It was also essential that government departments began co-ordinating on issues such as land reform, tenure security, labour legislation, and water allocation, among many others, if SA agriculture was to be able to make a meaningful contribution to the national growth plan, Maree also said.