South Africa

Political instability chases young South African professionals overseas

Political instability, particularly student protests at South African universities in the form of #FeesMustFall, pushes young professionals to seek employment opportunities abroad. 

This was revealed in a White Paper from Profmed, a medical aid scheme designed for professionals in fields like medicine, accounting, law, engineering, architecture, and academia. 

Profmed’s report said South African professionals remain in high demand from other developing nations, particularly developed nations in Europe and North America. 

South African professionals have a global reputation for being hard workers, easily integrated, and problem solvers, with international companies constantly trying to entice professionals to leave the country.

Profmed said that over the past few years, it has noted an uptick in the number of professionals exiting their memberships with the company, and its target market is declining. 

This has been driven by professionals sensing a shift in local politics, with some leaving due to a rise in instability from coalition governments and others prefer to stay in the hope of fundamental change. 

Profmed noted that economic growth significantly impacts the emigration of skilled professionals, with periods of economic growth seeing less emigration. 

For example, from 1999 to 2005, when the South African economy experienced consistent growth above 4%, emigration slowed as private sector investment picked up and industries absorbed more skilled professionals. 

Recently, the fear around the ‘graduate unemployment problem’ and widespread student protests, such as #FeesMustFall, were tipping points for many students to look for a job outside South Africa or take gap years outside the country. 

Emigration is primarily in traditional professional fields such as medicine, accounting, and aviation. Profmed said emigration is indiscriminate in terms of race. 

Last week, Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors CEO Imre Nagy said most of the country’s top audit firms have flagged the profession’s attractiveness as a growing challenge.

The industry lost its lustre because of high entry requirements to study accounting, high tuition fees, low pay, high work stress, and negative publicity about the auditing profession.

The skills shortage is exacerbated by low maths literacy in South Africa, which significantly reduces the number of students able to study accounting.

In addition, several push-and-pull factors, such as political and socioeconomic instability, drive the emigration of highly skilled professionals.


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