Science and Technology and Skills Retention should be very serious tropics in SA.
In a post 1995 survey the statement is made that “187,330 South Africans are economically active or potentially active residents in the UK. Of that total, 89,865 are males and 97,465 females.” The report Going Down lists the following South African skills available just to the UK alone: These include administrative and secretarial professionals and people in technical occupations. accountants, Information Technology, managerial positions, engineers, financial sector, attorneys, medical personnel (doctors, dental surgeons, dental practitioners, radiographers, physiotherapists, pharmacists, nurses, staff nurses), teachers and social workers. The report itself is undated so the actual numbers are of limited value and in any event are confined to emigration to the UK when many other countries are regular beneficiaries of SA skills, but the principle remains clear – SA has been bleeding SA trained and skilled workers and professionals for decades.
A 2004 HSRC Fact Sheet attributes much of the emigration to perceptions of crime, cost of living, high levels of taxation with declining standards of public services, notably health and education and attractive salary packages and career opportunities in the advanced industrialised countries of the world. The same factors must have been influencing immigration so the skills lost to emigration are not being replaced through immigration.
The effect on SA is tangible. As recently as 2007 a report laments that SA’s productivity is plummeting.
It is true that the recent economic ills in Europe and America are causing a swing in the other direction (see From Brain Drain to Brain Gain) but that is hardly consoling when we should be holding our own in the international skills market place even in the good times, not feeding the rest of the world, much to their advantage and our disadvantage.
SA desperately needs to attract back those lost skills to what many (ourselves included) feel should be one of the greatest countries in the world to live in, and to convince all our newly graduated professionals that this is where their future is.
See other relevant reports:strategies