South Africa

Skilled South Africans flooding overseas

There is a surge in South African professionals leaving the country or applying to move abroad, causing a tremendous skills shortage.

In June, Wits professor William Gumede warned that South Africa’s skills exodus had become a crisis with professionals of all races, ages, and parts of the country leaving.

He highlighted that South Africa needs people with skills, ideas, and energy to turn the country around and increase economic growth.

“When you strip a country of these key people, it seriously undermines it from an economic growth perspective,” he said.

The result is that South Africa’s critical skills list is ever-expanding to look for the skills the country is losing through emigration.

However, South Africa’s work visa system is in disarray, with long delays and inefficiencies making it very difficult for companies to import skills needed for economic growth.

The Department of Home Affairs noted late last year that it had amassed a backlog of over 60,000 visa applications that it was struggling to process.

Former Home Affairs DG Mavuso Msimang said the critical skills shortage in the country is one of the most significant blockages to economic growth.

He added that it was “really worrying” that the government was dragging its feet to address the issue.

In comparison, countries like Canada and the United Kingdom make it easy and attractive for skilled South Africans to move abroad.

For example, Britain offers international relocation payments of £10,000 to foreign physics and language teachers to cover their visa and moving expenses.

Canada allows South Africans with no connections to the country and no job offer to apply for Permanent Residency.

They can move to Canada based on factors such as age, education, English language abilities, and skilled work experience.

The results are telling, with South Africa losing large numbers of qualified medical professionals, engineers, teachers, and other skilled professionals.

The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) said the critical shortage of skills is one of the key drivers behind the country’s collapsing infrastructure.

SAICE said the country had lost a shocking number of engineers in the civil sector over the last 20 years.

The South African medical fraternity also suffers from an exodus of nurses and doctors, resulting in understaffed public hospitals.

Profmed CEO Craig Comrie said the substantial exit of medical professionals over the last three to five years created tremendous skills shortages.

Apart from the immediate problems, it also hurts South Africa’s ability to produce quality medical specialists as there are fewer opportunities for specialised training.

Profmed CEO Craig Comrie

Expert explains Canadian changes

Canadian immigration consultant Nicholas Avramis explained that Canada has identified healthcare and critical skills as essential services.

The country has created a critical skills list, which allows South Africans to apply for permanent residency should they have the required qualifications.

“Canada’s flagship visa programme, called the Federal Skilled Workers Programme, looks at age, skills, and English language proficiency,” he said.

Many skilled South Africans are fluent in English, making them an attractive target for the Canadian government.

IT and healthcare are the two flagship skills Canada is looking for, but trade occupations are also on the critical skills list.

Other attractive skills include pilots, air traffic controllers, truck drivers, and logistics and freight experts.

Avramis said they have been inundated with requests from skilled South Africans looking to move to Canada.

“Since January 2023, my office has received 17,000 requests for information. A large part of the applicants are healthcare professionals,” he said.

A particular advantage for South African medical professionals is that the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada recognise local medical qualifications.

He said many doctors and nurses want to leave because of anxiety, distrust, and anger towards the government.

Uncertainty regarding the newly adopted National Health Insurance Bill is another reason many doctors and nurses want to leave.


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