The skills which are most difficult to find in South Africa right now

Xpatweb has published the results of its 2019/20 Critical Skills Survey, showing which skills employers find most difficult to recruit locally.

The results are based on responses from 178 companies, including JSE-listed companies and large multinational groups operating across Africa. 78% of respondents are c-suite level executives and managers in key decision-making positions.

89% of participants stated that their organisation struggles to recruit critically skilled individuals. Furthermore, 76% of participants indicated the need to search internationally for these skills which will assist the organisation to meet critical business objectives.

The respondents said that the following skills are currently the most difficult to recruit for in South Africa;

  • Engineers – 21%
  • ICT specialists – 19%
  • Artisans – 16%
  • C-suite executives – 12%
  • Senior financial executives – 10%
  • Healthcare professionals – 9%
  • Media & marketing specialists – 7%
  • Foreign language speakers – 6%
  • Science professionals – 3%
  • STEM teachers – 3%

Brain drain

The results show that ICT Specialists and Engineers continue to be one of the most sought-after skills with 19% and 21% of participants respectively indicating same.

This is supported by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE), who stated in 2019 that South Africa continues to lose hundreds of engineers year on year who emigrate with their families.  This “brain drain” has created a massive skills shortage in the Engineering sector, Xpatweb said.

When looking at ICT professionals, a summit hosted by the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) at Leaderex in 2019 revealed that South Africa is in desperate need of ICT skills, and sadly, the Education sector is just unable to produce these skills in the numbers that South Africa needs.

“These factors are just the tip of the iceberg that cause multinationals to search globally for the skills needed,” Xpatweb said.

“Whilst South Africa is seeking critically skilled individuals, recent reports have shown that the momentum of South Africans seeking opportunities abroad has increased significantly over the past 5 -10 years due to the concern of economic growth in South Africa.”

Xpatweb said it is important to be reminded that skills are globally sourced for the economic benefit of those countries and South Africa has to compete for scarce skills

“When viewing the results in their entirety, it remains evident that there is a continued lack of critically skilled individuals available in South Africa and key stakeholders need to address these problems collectively in an effort to reinvigorate the economy.”


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The skills which are most difficult to find in South Africa right now