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South Africans Are Emigrating For Good, And This Is Where They’re Going

Author: Jason Snyman
Date: 2019-05-23
South Africans are emigrating in droves, with the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada emerging as some of the most popular destinations. What do you need to get into these countries?

In Part One of this article, we spoke a little bit about how more South Africans are emigrating than ever before, and the multiple reasons why. Corruption, poor governance, staggering levels of violent crime and unemployment have led to both skilled and unskilled South Africans, of all races, leaving the country in droves in search of a better future.

This Brain Drain has posed a massive threat to the South African economy, and the country now finds itself in the unpleasant position of not only losing its most skilled, high-earning individuals to other countries, but also being completely unable to attract any skilled foreigners to come and work here.  

Don’t be fooled into thinking that we’re only trying to hold onto, and attract, people with PhDs. We can’t hold onto our plumbers, we can’t hold onto our teachers and we can’t hold onto our IT professionals. We’re losing our doctors, our pharmacists, our lawyers and our engineers. Almost anybody with a viable trade, able to ply it abroad, is looking to do so. 

This is because people want to feel safe, and welcome, and financially secure. They want their children to have access to an actual education. They don’t want to leave a hospital closer to death than when they arrived. They want opportunity, and in all of these areas and more, South Africa is failing them, and failing them quite spectacularly. 

In this article, we’ll look at where all of these South Africans are going to, and how you can do the same. 

Career-Wise, Where Would South Africans Prefer To Live?

According to new research by the Boston Consulting Group and The Network, in association with Career Junction, 71% of young South African job seekers are willing to move abroad.

Our willingness to leave South Africa for better opportunities, it also found, has increased from 64% in 2014. 

This research was based on a survey of over 366 000 job seekers and 6000 recruiters in 197 countries, and was primarily conducted to determine reasons for wanting to move abroad, mobility preferences of global skill and which key elements job seekers search for in a job. 

The study shows that the US remains the most favourable work location for South Africans – who apparently consider American politics even less of a circus than our own – followed by Australia, the UK, Canada and Germany. 

Of the top ten most desirable countries to relocate to, New Zealand, the UAE, France, China and Switzerland also featured. 

The study highlighted that while respondents around the globe listed things such as good relationships with colleagues and good relationships with superiors as top motivating factors for relocating, South African respondents valued career development possibilities and the learning of valuable skills far more.

So terrified have we become, of the lack of career prospects in our own country, that our main career objectives are not to be rewarded, not to develop good interpersonal office relationships, but simply to attain the skills necessary to actually secure work, grow, and future-proof our careers. 

Or, Anywhere Else Will Do

Removals firm, Elliott Mobility, facilitated 2 500 moves abroad in 2018, and has said that it is expecting an increase of around 20% this year.  

Stuttaford Van Lines, likewise, experienced a 15% increase in moves abroad last year, and multiple estate agent surveys have seen an increase in emigration as the reason for people selling their houses.

Countries most often cited as the most popular destinations include New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the UK, the US, France, Germany, Mauritius, Panama, Namibia, Ireland, Angola, Botswana and Chile. 

Almost 900 000 living South Africans were residing in other countries by 2017. 

Many of these South African immigrants are skilled workers, relocated by local and global corporations and multinational companies for their specific qualifications. In many cases, entire families are transferred abroad, and as research from the Unicef Office of Research and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency reveals, the well-being of our children plays a major role in our decisions and motivations to actively seek out work abroad, and emigrate.

But, what about those who don’t have the skills or qualifications to secure a move?

What If You Don’t Have The Right Skills?

In 2017, approximately 7300 South Africans emigrated to the UK, and between 2016 and 2017, Australia also took in around 5397 South Africans. In 2018, New Zealand became quite a popular destination, as well, with around 5534 South Africans making the move. 

These countries, and many others, present their own sets of difficulties when looking to emigrate from South Africa. Australia, for instance, is well-known to be notoriously difficult to get into, and unless you’re incredibly wealthy and / or possess very particular skills, your chances are slim.

The demand for engineers and electricians has seen an increase over the last few months, as well as any other trade work, such as bricklayers, building inspectors and plumbers.

Teachers, while chronically underappreciated in South Africa, have also become hot property abroad. 

The list of in-demand skills across the globe is big and varied, but incredibly particular. Those who have slogged away at a thankless career in hospitality all their lives, for instance, won’t be finding too much joy. Chefs are in. Restaurant managers are out.   

For those who don’t possess the desired skills, and who have become equally disillusioned with the poverty, inequality, unemployment, violence, corruption and the poor standard of pretty much everything in South Africa, may find this news disheartening. There are, however, ways to go about it.

Some countries still offer working visas, and then, of course, you could take a closer look at your ancestry. Perhaps you’ll find yourself on holiday in Canada, or Ireland, or France, and fall in love and get married to a local. Stanger things have happened. A kind stranger, who has, no doubt, seen the spark of desperation in your eyes, may even offer to sponsor your move abroad, and vouch for every single little thing that you do. Another company may see some potential in you, and, conveniently, might be able to prove that no local citizen could possibly do that job better than you can. Just like that, you’re hired. And then, of course, your spouse, right here in South Africa, may be able to open some doors of their own.

None of these things are probable. But, they’re possible.

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