Why PhD penetration in corporate SA is so low

A recent study has revealed that only 0.07 percent of more than a million employees permanently employed in South Africa hold a PhD, despite universities reportedly producing 14 155 PhDs in the ten year period from 2002 to 2012.

The study, which looked at the employability of PhD graduates in South Africa, indicates that graduates are struggling to find employment in the country.

According to Dr. Amaleya Goneos-Malka, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Pretoria, PhD graduates are often excluded from the recruitment space because they are seen as overqualified by human resource personnel.

These are exceptionally shocking figures that emphasise incredibly low penetration levels in corporate South Africa.

Dr. Amaleya Goneos-Malka, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Pretoria

Goneos-Malka says that the first part of the study looked at recent PhD graduates from 14 leading South African universities and considered graduates’ perspectives and perceptions of the employment space.

She says that 50 percent of PhD graduates had either experienced, or had peers who had experienced difficulties finding employment.

The findings:

The second part of the study targeted the top 200 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, in addition to other leading companies across diverse sectors of the industry in order to determine the proportion of PhDs employed by the companies. These are some of the findings:

  • Shoprite has 104 000 employees, but only three have a PhD qualification.
  • Steinhoff International has 55 000 employees, but none hold PhDs.
  • Harmony has 30 000 employees, with two PhDs.
  • Woolworths has 25 752 employees, but no PhDs.
  • Netcare has 21 149 employees, with two PhDs.
  • Pick n Pay has 17 688 employees, with no PhD graduates.
  • Lonmin has 28 485 employees, but only one PhD.
  • Mr Price has 13 583 employees, but none with PhDs.
  • MMI Holdings Limited has 15 336 employees, but only one PhD.
  • Massmart has 21 549 employees, with two PhDs.
  • Group Five Limited has 13 022 employees, with two PhDs.
  • Anglo Gold Ashanti has 31 499 employees, with three PhDs.

Goneos-Malka says that there are two exceptions to the generally poor results:

  • ABSA has 30 190 employees with 120 PhDs.
  • Sasol has 30 500 employees with 283 PhDs.

WATCH: Dr. Amaleya Goneos-Malka advocates for South Africa's support in the PhD employment struggle.

The study is in conjunction with the South African National Development Plan 2030, which aims to produce more than 100 doctoral graduates per million per year by 2030. South Africa currently produces 28 doctoral graduates per million per year.

Goneos-Malka has started an online petition called the #PostgradProtest.

Listen to the full conversation on The John Robbie Show:

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