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How many plumbers are there in South Africa?

Drain pipe

A Stats SA analysis of the plumbing industry estimates that there are 125 000 people that self-identify as plumbers within the South African economy.

Of this Stats SA data set, 10 359 of these self-identified plumbers employ one or more people and 12 860 are own-account workers, while most self-identified plumbers in South Africa are working in the informal sector.

This data was ultimately collected after the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Skills Development Programme for a Green Economy II commissioned a report on the plumbing industry to provide an industry perspective of the trade from November 2018 to July 2019.

The data showed that of this estimate, many of these workers in the plumbing industry did not complete matric, but when the online resource for trade and industrial policy research in South Africa (TIPS ) ultimately analysed the data, they also found that the number of workers with a matric qualification has increased to several times the number of workers with job-specific qualifications.

“In general, the data shows very low levels of formal qualifications in the industry,” states the report. “It is not clear what the experience levels of these workers are, and whether they would qualify for recognition of prior learning (RPL) to ensure that they are placed on an upgrading pathway.”

The reported qualifications of the plumbing workforce as it was recorded in the labour market dynamics statistics:

While there may be 125 000 self-identified plumbers in SA, the question is; How many are qualified?  

Data from 2017 shows that there are 66 696 self-identified plumbers in the workforce who did not complete matric.

Over 40 000 self-identified plumbers did complete matric, while 2 940 and 1 676 plumbers did complete their N1, N3 and N4, N6 qualifications respectively.

Over 1 000 plumbers have the necessary certificates without completing matric, while 4 000 plumbers have certificates and their matric qualification.

TIPS also found that over 7 000 plumbers have a University qualification.

By analysing this data, it is estimated that there are about 14 000 qualified plumbers in the South African economy.

A worrying aspect:

The number of informal plumbers in South Africa was a big shock for the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) and the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB).

The report referenced above stated that most plumbing businesses are operating in the informal sector. The only exception is the Western Cape province, where there are more formal than informal plumbing businesses.

“While some informal plumbing activity could be ascribed to do-it-yourself activity, and some to working in a reciprocal way for family, friends, and neighbours, it is hard to determine where the more than 100 000 unaccounted informal plumbers are working,” the report stated. 

Click on this link to read the full report on the plumbing industry.

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