Highly skilled professionals have lost confidence in their future in South Africa

Professional financial services company PPS has published the results of its 2021 Graduate Professional Index (GPI), showing that highly skilled professionals in South Africa have lost confidence in their future in the country.

The index is based on a survey that drew 3,264 responses from professionals across various industries, including healthcare, financial services, legal and engineering. It gauges these professionals’ overall confidence in their future in the country, as well as the various push and pull factors that influence this.

Graduate professionals with an honours level or professional degree greater than four years form part of PPS members who responded.

In the 2021 results, while PPS found that professionals were generally confident in the future of their profession (60% overall), this is heavily weighted towards the more uncertain “somewhat confident” indicator in the survey.

This is also down from the 67% confidence score from 2019 when the survey was last conducted.

The 2021 survey results showed a substantial reduction in confidence levels in the following: political issues (47%) and economic conditions (25%) – compared to that of 2019’s results: political issues (43%) and economic conditions (27%).

Accountants are the most confident about their future, PPS said, with 43% indicating that they were very confident and 37% saying they were somewhat confident (80% confidence overall), while the business-related professions such as banking and IT, at 39%, said they were very confident and 34% somewhat confident (73%) overall.

On the other end of the spectrum, the most pessimistic of their futures were the dental and medical professions, with confidence ratings of 58% and 56%, respectively.

The pessimism from the medical health industry is notable, given that the reason for the uncertainty in the field stems from the government and its plans to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

“An ongoing concern for healthcare professionals is the likely impact of the NHI,” PPS said. “When canvassed for their views in the GPI 2021 survey, medical professionals cited their main concern was still focused on policy certainty and ensuring that the NHI remains uncorrupted by the government.”

With the PPS NHI survey conducted in 2019 – to which 2,600 members responded – the voice of professionals was mixed.

“There was overwhelming support for the principles of the NHI and recognition that the NHI could help improve the quality and access to healthcare if implemented in a considered and inclusive manner and within the context of policy certainty.

“However, a key concern was the increased tax burden, where nearly 40% of total taxes from individuals include a sizeable portion of professionals. Of PPS’s membership base of 150,000 members, 30,000 are medical professionals,” the group said.

This uncertainty has also led to increased interest in emigration, PPS said. Not only among medical professionals – which has been widely noted and is a major cause for concern – but among other professionals as well.

“Emigration is always a realistic option for the qualified. Each healthcare worker not only represents a skilled worker, but many are also self-employed and pay taxes as individuals, as well as in their business capacity,” the group said.

PPS made a presentation to Parliament earlier this year, showing that 73% of its members felt that emigration would be the outcome if NHI is not implemented responsibly.

“What we have observed amongst young professionals is a shift towards migration to further their opportunities to exposure and experience to benefit South Africa in the future, especially in light of the high youth and graduate unemployment levels in our country.

“We will always see the migration abroad of professionals as they have the qualifications and financial means.”

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

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Highly skilled professionals have lost confidence in their future in South Africa