Why South Africans are leaving – and are happier for it

A new report by InterNations Expat Insider shines some light on the profile of South African expats, why they leave the country, and how happy they are abroad.

South Africa is the 49th top expat destination (out of 64), showing that it is seen more as an expat source country, rather than a destination country.

Alarmingly, the general profile of the South African expat shows that around half are skilled employees or managers – and a quarter identify as being in top management positions.

This is far higher than the global average of 11% – a trend also seen in the representation of academic professionals who are leaving – 16% versus the global average of 9%.

“Many South African respondents stay abroad for at least five years, living comfortably in predominantly English-speaking social circles and top management positions.”

“The fact that 63% (of these expats) enjoy a higher income than at home is icing on the cake,” the report said.

According to InterNations, 70% of South African expats are generally satisfied with leaving the country, with only 13% feeling dissatisfied with their decision.

South Africans abroad
South Africans abroad (Click to enlarge)

Why South Africans leave

According to the report, personal safety and crime considerations are the biggest push factors.

The other top leading factors are the country’s high cost of living, as well as the economy and labour market.

There are also a host of pull factors – things which other countries offer that lure South Africans in – these include a sense of adventure, a better quality of life and typical job-related reasons.

“South Africans are on average more compelled to move abroad for political, religious, or safety reasons, with 5% indicating this as their most important reason for moving abroad compared to a mere 1% of all respondents,” InterNations said.

Across all indices and factors covered in the report, South Africa scores poorly, with the only high-ranking category being its leisure options, where it ranks 8th in the world.

Every other factor, from personal happiness, safety, healthcare, quality of education and cost of living, the country ranks poorly – below 30.

In early July 2015, emigration became topical as experts and professionals in the emigration industry noted a sharp rise in the number of South Africans interested in moving abroad.

Immigration lawyer, Chris Watters, told the Cape Argus at the time that inquiries to his practice had gone from approximately one every two weeks to nine or 10 a day since January.

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Why South Africans are leaving – and are happier for it