Most South African university students want to leave the country because of crime, corruption, lack of job opportunities, failing infrastructure, and the rising cost of living.
This was revealed in the annual 2022/23 Professional Provident Society (PPS) Student Confidence Index.
The survey involved 2,400 undergraduates and postgraduates studying towards a profession-specific degree at public and private universities.
The students studied valuable skills, including engineering, medicine, law, accounting, business management, and psychology.
The survey found that 90% of the university students desired to work and live abroad to gain experience.
What was particularly worrying is that the percentage of students, particularly younger black students, who want to leave jumped from 39% to 90% in two years.
It shows that the country faces a mass exodus of skills as young, qualified South Africans have an overwhelming desire to live and work abroad.
Apart from the better job prospects, they feel that working overseas enhances their chances of providing a better-quality future for their families.
There were also many problems, which the students cited as push factors for not wanting to live in the country.
78% of the participants rated crime and corruption as the topmost worrying factors about living in South Africa.
65% cited unemployment, 66% the failing infrastructure, and 52% the cost of living, poverty, and the economy.
Motshabi Nomvethe, PPS’s head of technical marketing, said there is a silver lining to students planning to leave the country.
She said many students indicated they would be willing to return to South Africa after gaining the necessary experience.
“The students want to come back when the South African economy has improved and can absorb them,” she said.
Skilled South Africans flooding overseas
The concerning findings in the 2022/23 PPS Student Confidence Index come on the back of reports of skilled South Africans flooding out of the country.
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.
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.
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.