UKZN academics Dr Myriam Velia and Mr Glen Robbins recently reported the research results from their study on manufacturing firms in greater Durban to local business leaders and those who participated in the survey.
The discussion provided an opportunity to hear first-hand from the UKZN research team on highlights of this path-breaking research into medium and large manufacturing employers in the eThekwini region.
The survey demonstrates the dynamic picture in manufacturing sectors such as clothing and textiles, agro-processing and metal works and allowed the researchers to understand changes in employment levels within manufacturing firms.
The data reveal that the top constraints to growth have changed over the last decade. ‘Manufacturing establishments are notably affected by sluggish economic growth, depreciation of the rand/dollar exchange rate and high electricity costs, availability of technical/vocational skills is a notable constraint to expansion in 80% of firms,’ said Velia.
Robbins continued saying, ‘A greater supply of skilled workers is reported as required by the manufacturing firms studied to specifically increase their labour demand. Some of the results differ markedly from those that were found a decade ago for the study area, reflecting a better integration of firms into the global context and new challenges.’
The UKZN research team is confident that the survey analysis will provide policymakers, the business community and researchers with valuable insights into the efficacy of current industrial policies, and provides a valuable resource for research on the focus of future policies for industrial development. The survey also positions the city of Durban as one of the few local governments with panel data on manufacturing firms.
UKZN’s Dean of Research Professor Urmilla Bob said, ‘This research project is an impressive example of a long-term product and it contributes to the development and transformation of society and also the development and sustainability of the city and the sector. This research is making an impact in the real world and is further building the capacity of the next generation of scholars and researchers.’
Mr Takalani Rathiyaya from the eThekwini Municipality stated, ‘The conversation on this research must continue. Based on this research, we are putting together an action plan to sustain the sector and to improve on current offerings.’
Ms Kylie Griffins from the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA) added, ‘This research is useful to understand the local economy,’ while Mr Pat Moodley from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) said, ‘The findings from the data-set is interesting and gives us insight on how this sector can become sustainable, to further grow and expand our market, to compete globally and to even create employment.’