South Africa

WBHO warns of South African talent drain

Construction company Wilson Bayly Holmes (WBHO) warned that South Africa is facing a significant talent drain across multiple sectors due to the many challenges the country is facing, particularly rising crime and corruption. 

WBHO’s chairman, Louwtjie Nel, issued this warning to shareholders in the company’s annual report for the past financial year. 

Nel said the construction sector faces multiple headwinds, which have shrunk the industry by 44% over the past six years. 

“There is an urgent need for South Africa to prioritise upholding the rule of law. The adverse effects of not doing so are becoming increasingly obvious,” Nel said.

“Crime and corruption function as significant deterrents to business and investor confidence, demanding swift and decisive action.”

“We strongly urge the government to combat the growing tide of criminal extortion and corruption that is affecting South African society, particularly within the construction sector.” 

One consequence of these challenges in South Africa is a significant talent drain across various sectors. 

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana noted in a May Parliamentary session that 2,700 individuals earning over R500,000 annually, along with another 1,100 earning over R1 million, have left the country. 

This departure equates to a loss of R1,3 billion in tax revenue for South Africa. 

Of greater concern for Nel is that many young professionals, including engineers and quantity surveyors vital to the construction industry, are departing in search of opportunities abroad. 

“This trend does not merely impact the construction sector. It has far-reaching implications for the national economy,” Nel said. 

WBHO’s warning comes on the back of multiple warnings from financial services firms and organisations of a lack of skills in South Africa.

Momentum Metropolitan warned of a lack of critical skills in the industry, creating a “war for talent” in the sector in its annual report.

The insurer said it is currently in a war for talent, particularly for actuaries, IT specialists, and other technical professionals. 

The company also warned that it is increasingly difficult to employ more people with the requisite skills, putting it at risk of failing to achieve transformation targets. 

“South Africa is facing an acute critical skills crisis, especially African, coloured and Indian skills, due to increased local and international competition and emigration,” the company said.

“We face the risk of skills shortages, particularly in critical skills such as actuarial, IT and technical talent. This has amplified in the evolving working environment.” 

“Talent retention, burnout and fatigue are all concerns, especially in specialist areas, and talent attraction remains challenging.” 

Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (Irba) CEO Imre Nagy warned of an auditors shortage in South Africa. 

The country’s auditing profession faces a skills shortage due to low mathematics literacy, emigration, and a negative perception of the industry.

The industry has 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.