South Africa

Skilled people want to leave South Africa

A new survey found that an increasing number of skilled professionals are considering emigrating, with a desire for more opportunities and a better life being the biggest motivating factors.

A comprehensive survey conducted by the Inclusive Society Institute in late 2023 found that the number of South Africans considering emigration remains disturbingly high. 

The survey found that 8.59% of adult South Africans over 18 indicated that they either agreed or strongly agreed that they were seriously considering emigrating to another country in the next year or so. 

10.78% of respondents with higher education qualifications indicated they were seriously considering emigrating in the next year or so – far more than the 9.25% recorded in 2022.

For individuals in higher income brackets, the percentage of respondents who indicated that they were seriously considering emigrating in the next year or so is 11.45%, up sharply from 9.01% in 2022.

Younger people, in particular, remain the most vulnerable group for emigration.

Given the country’s high youth unemployment statistics and the greater flexibility of younger people, South Africa stands to lose a considerable proportion of its young people to other countries.

However, the aspiration to emigrate seems to diminish the older people become: 

  • Among 18 of 24-year-olds, 13.56% were considering emigration. 
  • For 25 to 34 years, it was 9.97%. 
  • For 35 to 49 years, this went down to 7.63%.
  • For 50 years and older, it was only 3.63%.

The survey found that the driving force behind the intention to emigrate appears to be mainly economic. For 25.48% of those considering emigration, the high unemployment rate is informing their intention.

19.39% of respondents considering emigration want to achieve a better life, and 17.65% want to secure a better future.

“The perception of South Africa as a failing state was also a strong motivator,” according to the survey. 

21.38% of respondents highlighted the infrastructure and service delivery deterioration in South Africa as a reason for considering emigration.

Issues of race hardly register as motivators to emigrate. Only 0.41% indicated that race issues were influencing their decisions.

“The number of South Africans considering emigration remains stubbornly high. More alarming is the number of skilled and high-income earners (taxpayers) considering emigration,” the survey said. 

“Failure to improve the economy will lead to more emigration, which in turn will impede the country’s economic prospects.” 

“Economic growth, not social re-engineering, is where the priority should be. Otherwise, other countries will continue to benefit from recruiting qualified and hard-working young people from South Africa.”


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