SA brain drain worsens as expats plug skills gaps abroad, says new report

(iStock)
(iStock)

According to reports from emigration assistance groups and local banks, South Africa is experiencing a sharp rise in people emigrating.

Pew Research estimates that at least 900 000 people born in South Africa were living in other countries in 2017, with many of these people being skilled and educated.

Marisa Jacobs, immigration specialist and director at Xpatweb, says the company's recently released annual Critical Skills Survey highlights the top critical skills that employers struggle to recruit within local borders. It also shows striking similarities between the jobs that are in demand in popular emigration destinations, such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

Which skills are the hardest to recruit locally?

The latest Critical Skills Survey surveyed 110 companies, including JSE-listed companies and large multinational groups operating in Africa.

Following last year's survey, ICT specialists and engineers remain the most difficult to recruit, followed by artisans, senior financial executives, professionals in the health sector, executive managers, specialists & academics, mining executives, risk managers, and foreign language speakers. 

"The most notable jump in figures are the number of South African companies struggling to recruit artisans, increasing by 45% from last year and professionals in the health sector which rose by a massive 200%," said Jacobs.

Over 85% of respondents indicated that they find it difficult to recruit critically skilled individuals and that an international search would help them find these skills, but that the work visa process was an inhibitor. 

"Our survey results show that there is a very clear link between the skills that are needed locally and the professions that other countries are recruiting for, again confirming that skills shortages are a global challenge and South Africa is competing for these skills. Skills transfer to local teams and concession planning remains a key element for companies to develop their teams," said Jacobs.

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