South Africa losing another valuable skill to emigration

 ·1 Feb 2023

South African pet owners could be left in a worrying position in the future as more veterinarians in South Africa look to emigrate.

Speaking to eNCA, the South African Veterinary Association’s Gert Steyn said that 58% of South African veterinarians under the age of 29 have begun the process of emigration or are certain that they are going to emigrate very soon.

The association collected responses from a nationwide survey, in which over 20% of practising veterinarians responded – a high survey response rate.

Steyn said that the main reason for emigrating was due to issues surrounding safety and security. The very-close second reason was economic reasons.

Steyn said that the six years required to become a veterinarian is incredibly expensive and that vets do not earn enough to cover the education costs – which were likely taken from a loan. Young veterinarians, thus, have to look overseas for economic opportunities.

To earn a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) from the University of Pretoria, a prospective student would have to spend as much as R370,000 over six years to qualify. User-submitted salary data from groups like PayScale and Indeed put the average salary for a vet in South Africa at around R500,000 (or R40,000 a month).

However, entry-level positions can start as low as R180,000 (R15,000 per month).

Steyn said that a long-term solution to the issue would be to increase the capacity of the veterinary training, but that could take eight to ten years to implement. He said that academics and private veterinarians are concerned that new veterinary facilities will have insufficient staff.

A quicker solution would be to address South Africa’s regulations regarding veterinarians that come to South Africa to practice.

Veterinarians were recently removed from the critical skills list, making it harder for international veterinarians to acquire a work visa.

Steyn said that universities in the UK and Australia allow veterinarians to practice in South Africa without the need to write any additional exams.

However, these veterinarians have to perform a compulsory community service year, and posts are not always available. This makes it incredibly difficult for international veterinarians to work in South Africa.

Steyn added that fixing these regulations should not take a long period of time.

Food safety and security risk 

Pet owners are not the only possible victims of this lack of veterinarians, as veterinarians regularly monitor the safety of animal protein.

Steyn said that a lack of veterinarians poses a risk to food safety and security, with at least three or four veterinarians involved in making sure that animal protein is safe for people to consume.

He said that the Department of Home Affairs has to amend the critical skills list to attract more veterinarians to South Africa, adding that incoming veterinarians should also be exempted from conducting community service.

The association has been trying to contact the government over the last 18 months to resolve these concerns but is yet to receive a response, he said.

Read: How much it costs to go plant-based in South Africa – Woolworths vs Pick n Pay vs Checkers

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter