SA’s brain drain is picking up speed

Picture: iStock

SA is haemorrhaging highly skilled professionals who are leaving for greener pastures, with over 900 000 – from artisans to doctors – now working overseas.

South Africa’s brain drain continues and a new survey suggests the leak may be worse than expected as highly skilled workers “may be leaving for greener pastures”.

The New Critical Skills Survey, released by Xpatweb, revealed that the jobs South African employees are struggling to fill happened to be the very ones that are in demand in popular emigration destinations such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

It claimed highly skilled South Africans were leaving for these countries.

After surveying 110 companies, including JSE-listed and large multinational groups operating in Africa, “information and communications technology specialists and engineers remain the most difficult to recruit, followed by artisans, senior financial executives, professionals in the health sector, executive managers, specialists and academics, mining executives, risk managers and foreign language speakers”.

“According to reports from emigration assistance groups and local banks, SA is experiencing a sharp rise in people emigrating,” Xpatweb director Marisa Jacobs said.

“Pew Research estimates 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.

“The most notable jump are the number of SA 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.

Steve Brown, operations manager at the Institute of Plumbing SA, said they had been aware of losing qualified artisans for a while, but it seemed even more people were leaving now, due to little enforcement of the protection of standards.

“We have all the laws in the world, but the law enforcement agencies have done very little to protect artisans,” he said. “Anyone with little to no experience could be a plumber now, which was problematic to professionally trained artisans, who had to compete with them.”

This would lead to lowering prices and unsustainability within the sector, he claimed, citing many examples of artisans he knew who had left because they were not coping financially.

He said they were now living comfortably on their earnings.

“Qualified artisans need to be trade-protected to be lucrative and have secured remuneration,” said Brown.

Jacobs said employers were not only struggling to recruit highly skilled workers, but when they looked to the international market, they faced migration issues because “the work visa process was an inhibitor”.

A total of 85% of SA employers surveyed said they found it difficult to recruit internationally, “citing onerous requirements and long processing times of the SA embassies abroad, as some of the major challenges they face”.

“Our survey results show there is a very clear link between the skills that are needed locally and the professions that other countries are recruiting for – 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,” Jacobs said.

jenniffero@citizen.co.za

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