Beyond ‘supply and demand’: moving from skills ‘planning’ to seeing skills as endogenous to the economy

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This article questions the notion of supply and demand of skills, and, accordingly, the rules and tools that have been developed for skills anticipation in South Africa. I argue that there is nowhere ‘outside’ of the economy where skills are produced. Rather, a society and an economy need to be seen as an organism, where skill formation is a complex set of moving parts. The concept of supply and demand is unhelpful to think about skill formation because it directs our attention towards specific moving parts in isolation from the broader factors that shape them. This explains why, despite the existence of extensive tools and institutions for skills anticipation, and numerous institutions for social dialogue and stakeholder engagement, researchers and policy-makers argue that South Africa has an inadequate supply of the skills that are needed in the workplace and concomitant skills mismatches. The article also presents more specific problems with the rules and tools, particularly in the way the systems and institutions for understanding labour market demand interact with the systems and tools for the supply of skills – especially those tools that govern and shape skills provision. It argues further that, whereas there are real problems with these rules and tools, and while they can certainly be improved, the broad goals that they are intended to achieve will not be attained even with better tools, but that different conceptual lenses are required instead.
Job credentials, Skill formation, Skills anticipation, Skills mismatches, Skills planning, Skills supply and demand, Vocational education
Allais, S. M. (2022). Beyond ‘supply and demand’: Moving from skills ‘planning’ to seeing skills as endogenous to the economy. Journal of Vocational, Adult and Continuing Education and Training, 5(1), 19.