Companies must comment on SA's proposed new critical skills list - immigration expert

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By becoming "active players" in the final Critical Skills List, organisations will help ease immigration constraints.
By becoming "active players" in the final Critical Skills List, organisations will help ease immigration constraints.
  • South Africa's current Critical Skills List was published in 2014, but significant macroeconomic events have affected the country's foreign skills demand since then.
  • The Department of Higher Education and Training has submitted its preliminary critical skills list to the Department of Home Affairs for review.
  • To make their needs heard, organisations must provide feedback proactively the opportunity to comment becomes available.


The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has submitted its preliminary critical skills list to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) for review.

The list is publicly available from the DHET's website and companies can start reviewing it in anticipation of a round of public commentary before it is finalised.

According to Marisa Jacobs, managing director at Xpatweb, which specialises in, among other services, immigration, some of its own research was used as a refence of input for the DHET Occupations in High Demand (OHID) report. Xpatweb's own Critical Skills Survey has been compiled annually over the last five years.

Jacobs explains that South Africa's current Critical Skills List was published in 2014. Significant macroeconomic events have, however, affected the country's foreign skills demand since then. These include the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the impact of Covid-19. 

"This makes the new list vital to enabling the recruitment of emerging business-critical talent internationally to promote economic growth," Jacobs explains in a statement.

She anticipates the new list will likely be published in early 2021.

Several occupations on the current Critical Skills List have been excluded from the new preliminary list. These include corporate general manager; risk assessor; certain ICT designations; electrical and chemical engineer; toolmaker; pressure welder; boilermaker; certain trades, such as millwright, pipefitter, double-coded welder and rigger; foreign language speaker; and business analyst.

In the view of Jacobs, this may concern employers who have difficulty sourcing these skills locally. Visas for foreign nationals listed on the Critical Skills List are typically processed two to six months faster. This puts companies who urgently need to replace scarce workers not on the list, at a disadvantage.

"To make their needs heard, organisations must provide feedback proactively [when] the opportunity to comment becomes available," says Jacobs. This will ensure the finalised list aligns with actual national business requirements.

By becoming "active players" in the final Critical Skills List, organisations will help ease immigration constraints that may limit access to occupations essential to economic growth, in her view. 

Lastly, Jacobs commends the DHET and DHA for the work done so far and for openly engaging the private sector.

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