For every skilled professional coming to South Africa, eight are leaving.
This was the major finding of an Enterprise Observatory of South Africa (EOSA) report released in January.
The researchers found that while a large number of white professionals were making the jump, in recent years, the annual number of black professionals leaving South Africa exceeds the tally of professional white emigrants.
The EOSA estimated that between 1989 and 2003, over 120,000 of the 520,000 mainly white emigrants had professional qualifications (one in four) and SA lost 7% of its total stock of professionals.
“Considering that the 1990 to 2003 emigration of skills continued despite the return of stabilisation under Mandela and Mbeki, one can easily state that at least a similar number of white professional people have left between 2004 and 2018 – amounting to at least a quarter million of white professionals,” said Johannes Wessels, director of EOSA.
“(However), the last phase of the Zuma catastrophe as well as the embrace by the ANC of expropriation without compensation have led to an acceleration of skilled emigration – this time from all race groups.”
Damage to the economy
Speaking to BusinessTech chief economist at the Efficient Group, Dawi Roodt, said that the number of skilled South Africans leaving the country is a massive problem for the economy.
He said that this has been exacerbated by South Africa’s current immigration policies and the restrictions on workers trying to enter the country.
“South Africa cannot attract skilled foreigners to come and work in the country,” he said.
“When we talk about skilled foreigners I don’t just mean guys with PhDs, I also mean plumbers and other trade workers who typically come from other African countries who are also finding it difficult to enter the country.
“Without a doubt, we are losing a lot of highly-skilled and normally skilled South Africans of all races.”
Roodt said that this was not only due to the country’s politics, but also due to its poor economy.
“At the end of the day, people with skills want to ensure that they have a financial future in South Africa.
“However, they also want to feel welcome, safe, and that their children have access to quality education and medical treatment – and I am afraid this country is facing certain challenges when it comes to those things.