5 scary facts about emigration in South Africa

 ·3 May 2019

There are several alarming indicators showing that more South Africans are packing things up and leaving the country, with safety, lack of opportunity and politics being listed as some of the biggest reasons why.

The first major indicator of emigration numbers comes from property sales where that is listed as the reason for selling up.

The FNB Estate Agents Survey results for the first quarter of 2019 shows that emigration-driven sales now account for 14.2% of all sales, a big jump from 10% in 4Q18.

Such sales have doubled in the past two years and are, as expected, more prominent in the coastal areas and in upmarket segments, said FNB economist Siphamandla Mkhwanazi.

Speaking to BusinessTech FNB property sector strategist, John Loos, said that there has been a steady increase in the number of South Africans who are selling their homes for emigration-related reasons – rising from just 2% in 2013.

Tracking emigration rates in South Africa is a difficult task without running a monthly headcount, however, several other data points provide some indication of who is leaving and why.

Below BusinessTech looked at 4 other statistics about emigration from South Africa that we know about.

South Africa is losing wealth

An April report by New World Wealth showed that  South Africa recorded a substantial outflow of wealth in 2018.

Based on the group’s estimates, around 3,000 net-worth individuals (HNWIs) have left the country over the past decade – roughly 300 each year.

HNWIs are those people with a net worth exceeding $1 million.

“Most of these individuals have gone to the UK, Australia and USA. Switzerland and Portugal are also popular destinations,” New World Wealth said.

According to NWW, the most common reasons cited by HNWIs for leaving include:

  • Safety – woman and child safety especially;
  • Lifestyle: climate, pollution, space, nature and scenery;
  • Financial concerns;
  • Schooling and education opportunities for their children;
  • Work and business opportunities;
  • Taxes;
  • Healthcare system;
  • Religious tensions;
  • Standard of living;
  • Oppressive government.

South Africa has a reputation for being one of the most violent countries globally, with poor levels of education, high taxes and an interfering government when it comes to the affairs of the wealthy.

NWW said that South Africa, in particular, is often cited as being among the least safe countries for women.

Needed skills are flowing out

American think tank, Pew Research, estimates that at least 900,000 people born in South Africa were currently living in other countries in 2017.

Angel Jones, CEO of Homecoming Revolution, a recruitment firm that specialises in ‘brain gain’ and bringing global African talent back to the continent, believes that this number is likely closer to three times as high (2,700,000+).

Alarmingly, many of these people are skilled and educated, resulting in a major brain drain.

Johannes Wessels, director of entrepreneurial non-profit, The Enterprise Observatory of South Africa (EOSA), estimates that  for every professional immigrating to South Africa – eight professionals are emigrating, and 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 researchers found 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,” Wessels said.

South Africans are seeking second passports

There has been a large increase in South Africans applying for a secondary passport.

Speaking to BusinessTech, residence and citizenship planning firm, Henley & Partners, said that it had seen a 125% increase in the number of enquiries received in the second half of 2018 compared to the same period last year.

This was underpinned by a record number of enquiries received in October 2018 – equating to a 364% increase in growth year-on-year.

“South African high net worth (HNW) clients who seek our professional services are not always looking to relocate, but rather invest in a Plan B for future proofing,” Henley & Partners said.

It added that these citizens typically recognise that dual citizenship or residency provides more benefits and privileges for them and their families including ease of travel, security for the future and expansion of business and banking etc.

Emigrants are heading to the UK

Statistics provided by other country’s home affairs offices show that South Africans have clear favourites in deciding where to move.

At the beginning of January, statistics provided to City Press by UK’s Office for National Statistics showed that approximately 7,300 people emigrated from South Africa to the UK in 2017.

Data provided to BusinessTech in July 2018 shows that Australia remains a popular choice, with the country adding  5,397 South Africans over  the 2016-2017 financial year.

Statistics provided to BusinessTech at the end of 2018 shows a sharp rise of accepted applicants to New Zealand in 2017 and 2018, with more than 5,534 South Africans moving to the country by November 2018 alone.

Read: Here’s how many super wealthy South Africans have left the country

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