Skilled workers returning home

Hundreds of thousands of skilled expats have returned South Africa over the past five years, according to new data from Adcorp – however the numbers are not enough to plug the hole of high-skill positions available in the market.

The relative condition of the global economy has made global assignments more unobtainable in recent years.

Adcorp, the labour market specialist, says it was able to estimate the net number of high-skilled immigrants returning to the country using wage data for high-skilled workers.

The group’s January Employment Index showed that, since the global financial crisis in 2008, close to 360,000 high-skill South Africans have returned to the country from foreign work assignments.

This represents 18% of the total pool of managers and professionals in South Africa and 12% of the total pool of graduates, Adcorp noted.

The estimates by Adcorp are drawn and extrapolated from observing wage data for high-skill workers in the country, which have seen an above-inflation increase of 5.1% per annum since 1997 (pre-inflation growth of 11.2% per annum).

“There was a relatively uninterrupted period of expansion of high-skilled workers’ wages from 1997 to around 2008,” the report noted.

“Since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, wages of high-skilled South Africans have declined by 23.0% in after-inflation terms.”

According to Adcorp, this decline is consistent with an increased supply of additional high-skill workers into the market, which, due to tight restrictions on foreign labour, means it’s South Africans coming home.

“The South African economy’s demand for high-skilled workers has remained relatively stable over the past decade,” said Adcorp labour market economist Loane Sharp.

According to Sharp, South Africa has a consistent shortage of high-skilled workers amounting to around 829,000 unfilled vacancies – positions that could be easily or immediately filled if only the requisite skills were available.

The unemployment rate for high-skilled workers has remained roughly constant at around 0.4%, Adcorp said, this, compared to an unemployment rate of 37% for the workforce as a whole.

“In other words, the high-skilled segment of the South African labour market is persistently in a state of excess demand,” Sharp said.

According to Sharp, these estimates suggest that South Africa’s skills shortage is substantial and is not being met by the local supply of high-skilled workers.

“The restrictions on foreigners living and working in South Africa should be relaxed, since this would supplement the dwindling local supply of skills,” Sharp said.

According to Adcorp, South Africa’s employment figures grew by 23,861 jobs over November and December, with the biggest gains in the informal sector (12,722 jobs created) and the temporary job sector (5,922 jobs).

“Since January 2013, the informal sector has generated 73,799 jobs, compared to a total decline of 241,536 permanent and temporary jobs, reflecting the growing importance of the informal sector in the South Africa labour market,” Adcorp said.

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Skilled workers returning home