South Africa plans to start tracking emigration – here’s where people are moving

 ·22 Apr 2022

The South African government plans to change its data collection systems to get a better idea of how many skilled South Africans are leaving the country.

The proposal, which is included in the Department of Employment and Labour’s latest National Labour Migration Policy (NLMP), notes the country has seen an outflow of valuable skills in several sectors.

It added that the emigration of skilled South Africans has not been addressed efficiently through any specific policy, and constitutes a growing problem in certain sectors.

The updated data-tracking will also allow the government and public to have reliable, up-to-date data on flows and stocks of highly skilled South Africans employed abroad and on sectors and occupations particularly affected by attrition to emigration or remigration, it said.

Historically, the Department of Home Affairs and Statistics South Africa has not published information on the number of people emigrating. However, the United Nations does keep data on migrant stock and where South Africans have emigrated.

According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ 2020 International Migrant Stock report, by the end of 2020, 914,901 South Africans were living in other countries and territories, up from 786,554 in 2015.

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.

Country of destination Number of emigrants
United Kingdom 247 300
Australia 199 700
United States 117 300
New Zealand 73 800
Canada 48 100
Germany 20 400
Mozambique 20 200
Zimbabwe 19 700
Netherlands 17 500
Eswatini 12 700

Wealthy more likely to leave 

FNB’s latest property barometer for South Africa shows that around 8% of people are selling their homes with plans to leave the country. Notably, the data shows that wealthier South Africans – even those in upper-middle-income brackets – are more likely to sell up to emigrate.

As many as 14% of home sellers in the R2.6 million – R3.6 million house price bracket are selling to emigrate, with this figure dropping to 11% in the R3.6 million+ house band.  Emigration-related sales increased steadily between 2015 and 2019, rising from 5% of total sales in 2015 to a record-high of 13.4% in Q2 2019.

This number subsequently dropped to around the 8% mark in 2021 due to a confluence of factors, including international restrictions and a strong property market. However, this is up a percentage point compared to the Q2 2020 report.

Read: Here’s how many skilled South Africans are getting residency in New Zealand

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