A new white paper from payroll services group Playroll, in partnership with tech and developer jobs marketplace OfferZen and executive recruitment firm Aims International, shows that South Africa’s skills crisis runs deeper than industry-specific shortages portray.
The group’s research found that close to 80% of all business leaders it surveyed consider the emigration of skills one of the critical risk factors facing their organisations.
This comes at a time when emigration appears to be accelerating, it said.
Playroll noted that over 900,000 South Africans have already left the country – a number that was most recently published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ 2020 International Migrant Stock report in 2022.
According to the UN report, by the end of 2020, 914,901 South Africans were living in other countries and territories, up from 786,554 in 2015.
Worryingly, three times as many people emigrated from South Africa between 2015 and 2020 – over 128,000 people – than between 2010 and 2015 (43,000 people), the data showed.
The UK has the most migrant stock from South Africa, with almost a quarter of a million residents listing RSA as their birth country. This is followed by Australia, the USA and New Zealand.
Playroll said that the problems around the emigration of critical skills run deeper than even these numbers show because, increasingly, young people are the ones leaving.
The group noted that those aged between 25 and 40 are the most likely to leave the country – and possibly more concerningly, over half of South Africa’s graduates have the potential to emigrate in the future.
Senior employees are also more likely to relocate, probably because they have the financial means to do so, it said.
The trend of younger people leaving has been supported by the most recent tax data from the South African Revenue Service (SARS). In lieu of any official government data on emigration, the number of South African taxpayers who have ended their tax residency in the country provides some insights into these trends.