Skilled youth in South Africa are flooding to these 5 countries – and here’s why

 ·18 Feb 2024

Although the number of general South Africans wanting to leave the country has declined, the number of young skilled professionals wishing to leave has increased, and the main reason for this is job opportunities.

This is according to a survey conducted by the Inclusive Society Institute (ISI), which found that of all the South Africans surveyed, around 9% are seriously considering emigrating in the next two years – which represents a 2% decline from the previous survey conducted in 2021.

However, speaking to eNCA, the CEO of ISI, Daryl Swanepoel, noted that despite the decline, around 10% wanting to leave is still a problem.

“Concerningly, the data showed that the number of South Africans wanting to leave the country increased with qualification levels and remuneration or wealth,” he said.

“This is particularly alarming given the existing skills shortage in the country, as losing highly educated individuals would deal a significant blow to the economy, including the potential loss of tax to the fiscus resulting from the high-income earners’ departure,” he added.

An idea of how many high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) have left the country was highlighted in the latest BRICS Wealth Report for 2023, which shows that South Africa has lost around 9,000 millionaires over the last ten years.

Even more concerning, however, is that Swanepoel noted that skilled South Africans between the ages of 18 and 24 years are the most likely to emigrate – with 13.56% seriously considering the move compared to the 9% average.

The report revealed that South Africans aged 18-24 were more than two and a half times as likely to consider emigrating compared to those over 50 years old.

Why they’re moving

Economic and personal well-being considerations mainly drove South Africans who indicated their intention to emigrate.

23.18% of South Africans who indicated that they were considering emigration cited better job opportunities as the rationale for their consideration, while 9.79% suggested overall better opportunities.

9.69% cited a better life/standard of living as the reason. A failing South African state and lousy governance were the other contenders in the top five.

Where they’re going

Mainly developed economies and English-speaking countries seem to appeal to those considering emigration.

The previous year’s outlier, Germany, which then came in third, was this year pipped by another outlier, Botswana.

Germany still registered amongst the top five preferred destinations, while Canada fell out of the top five.

Although Canada fell out of the ISI’s top five, it is still a top-rated destination for skilled South Africans – with Sable International placing it among its top five countries alongside Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

A recent example of the popularity of the North American country was highlighted by Canadian immigration consultant  Nicholas Avramis, who confirmed his offices had received around 17,000 enquiries from South Africans looking to move.

“For any economy to lose so many of its young and qualified workforce is problematic, more so in an economy such as ours, which lacks skills and expertise,” the ISI said.

“The risk is real. The South African economy is not providing enough job opportunities for the educated and high-income earners to grow.

“This is against a backdrop of developed economies – including those favoured most by South Africans – that have a qualified jobs deficit and are actively seeking especially qualified individuals to relocate to their shores,” it added.

Read: Canada extends ban on foreigners buying property – what it means for South African emigrants

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