According to an exploration of household survey skills development and unemployment between 1994 and 2014, race remained a stumbling block to the southern African country.
Stats SA’s survey showed that in the first quarter of 2014 about 25 per cent of South African workers occupied skilled occupation.
However, about 46 per cent were still in semi-skilled occupations in 2014 - such as clerks, craft and related trades, and machine operators - a slight decrease from 47 per cent in 1994.
According to the survey, 29 per cent of the workforce remained in the low-skilled occupations such as elementary jobs and domestic work down from 32 per cent in 1994.
(READ MORE: S.Africa's unemployment up 0.3% in Q2)
The report said race remained a factor in skill sectors.
“Although the proportion of skilled workers within all race groups increased over the twenty-year period, the extent of change differs between the races,” read the report.
“There were substantial shifts towards skilled work among white and Indian/Asian populations, with the proportion of skilled workers increasing from 42 per cent in 1994 to 61 per cent in 2014 among the white workforce (a gain of 19 percentage points)."
There was also an increase among the Indian/Asian workforce from 25 per cent to 51 per cent over the same period which was a 26 per cent gain.
“The proportion of semi-skilled workers within the white workforce decreased from 55 per cent in 1994 to 36 per cent in 2014. Only three per cent of white workers occupied low-skilled occupations in both 1994 and 2014.”
However, worrying trends remain, this as movement by the country’s black workforce was minimal.
(READ MORE: S.Africa’s youth hardest hit by unemployment)
“An examination of the data also revealed little movement towards skilled employment among the black African workforce, with the black African workforce showing only a slight movement towards skilled occupations, but a more substantial movement towards semi-skilled occupations,” said Stats SA.
“In 1994, 15 per cent of black African workers occupied skilled jobs, increasing to only 18 per cent in 2014. Over the same period the proportion of black African workers in semi-skilled occupations increased from 42 per cent to 48 per cent.”
These trends illustrate the challenges that South Africa is still facing 20 years after becoming a democracy in 1994.