The disturbing rate of brain drain in South Africa is getting alarming. The government must now act intentionally to stem the tide, by motivating professionals to stay put.
According to report Qualified and skilled professionals are leaving South Africa in droves in search of better opportunities for them and their families.
The ongoing problems of crime, economic uncertainty, political problems, affirmative action, BEE and unemployment are driving citizens to look for greener pastures overseas.
The loss of skills through emigration is enormous – for every one professional coming to South Africa, eight are leaving.
This problem cuts across racial lines. While emigration was associated with white professionals a few years ago, the number of black professionals leaving South Africa now exceeds white emigrants.
Johannes Wessels, director of The Enterprise Observatory of South Africa (EOSA), said at least 400,000 high-income professionals have left South Africa.
“This contributes to the shrinking percentage of high-income households, as well as removing people in high personal tax brackets as contributors to SARS,” he said.
Homecoming Revolution believes there are over 2.7 million South Africans living abroad, many of whom are highly skilled.
According to Carte Blanche, which cited an estate agent survey, more than 14% of house sales this year are emigration driven.
This is up from 10% at the end of 2018 and more than double what it was two years ago, showing the acceleration of people leaving the country.
Removals company Biddulphs CEO Owen Farmerey said in 2013 they were bringing 15 people back to South Africa for every 10 who were leaving.
“Since then we have seen a noticeable increase in people emigrating. At this stage about 45% more people are leaving the country than in 2015,” he said.
The most popular destinations, Farmerey said, are the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
The chart below shows the number of people leaving in comparison with people coming into South Africa.
Home Affairs director Sihle Mthiyane said the department is concerned about the loss of skills because of emigration.
“For us to invest in our economy, we need skilled people and professionals,” said Mthiyane.
He added that they have a list of high-demand skills which makes it easy for professionals with these skills to come to the country.
Economist Dawie Roodt said populist political rhetoric is often behind wealthy South Africans sending their money and families overseas.
He said the weak rand is a clear indication of the high amount of capital which has already fled South Africa.
MyBroadband’s 2019 IT Salary Survey revealed that 46% of IT professionals in South Africa are planning to leave South Africa permanently, or work abroad, in the near future.
The survey was conducted in April and was completed by 3,055 respondents from a wide range of IT professions and companies.
The main reason for IT professionals planning to leave South Africa is political and economic concerns about the country.
Other prominent reasons for people planning to leave the country is crime, better living standards abroad, and a better future for their children.
The feedback from this survey echoes the views of IT professionals who have already left South Africa.
It also gives a clear indication of what should be done to keep IT professionals of all colours from leaving the country.
- Create a stable political and economic environment.
- Create a safer country by fighting crime more effectively.
- Kick-start economic growth to create more job opportunities and guarantee that the children of today can look forward to a better future.
- Stop Affirmative Action and BEE, or at least change it to ensure it does not discriminate against some groups and reward excellence.
The survey clearly illustrated that IT professionals are not overly concerned about the very high tax burden in South Africa.
They are therefore happy to help build the country and transform the economy, and all they require is a safe and stable environment free of corruption, crime, and discrimination.