The 2019/20 Critical Skills Survey specifically tracked the impact of immigration across various sectors within South Africa’s economy. The purpose was to highlight which skills employers find most difficult to recruit locally and as such provide input to the much anticipated new draft critical skills list from the Department of Home Affairs which will specify which occupations will qualify for a work visa in the Critical Skills Visa category and as such directly impacting employers.

When unpacking the results, we found that 89% of participants stated that their organisation struggles to recruit critically skilled individuals. Furthermore, 76% of participants indicated the need to search internationally for these skills which will assist the organisation to meet critical business objectives. When asked about the visa application process, 79% of participants indicated that the process remains a prohibitor and with only a limited number of companies managing to avoid the negative impact that the visa application system might have on their business.

ICT Specialists and Engineers Remain in High Demand

The results further show that ICT Specialists and Engineers continue to be one of the most sought-after skills with 19% and 21% of participants respectively indicating same. This is supported by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE), who stated in 2019 that South Africa continues to lose hundreds of engineers year on year who emigrate with their families. This “brain drain” has created a massive skills shortage in the Engineering sector.

When looking at ICT professionals, a summit hosted by the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) at Leaderex in 2019 revealed that South Africa is in desperate need of ICT skills, and sadly, the Education sector is just unable to produce these skills in the numbers that South Africa needs. These factors are just the tip of the iceberg that cause multinationals to search globally for the skills needed.

Skilled Artisans Still Sought After

The biggest jump in demand was recorded for Artisans with an increase of 60% from 2017 to 2019. This is supported by the Government’s statement in 2017 that South Africa has a shortfall of about 40,000 qualified artisans, and this gap is expected to widen as demand continues to increase. This forces industry to import skilled artisans from various countries to complete time sensitive projects.

Global Competition for Skills

Contrarily, whilst South Africa is seeking critically skilled individuals, recent reports have shown that the momentum of South Africans seeking opportunities abroad has increased significantly over the past 5 – 10 years due to the concern of economic growth in South Africa. It is therefore important to be reminded that skills are globally sourced for the economic benefit of those countries and South Africa has to compete for scarce skills. When viewing the results in their entirety, it remains evident that there is a continued lack of critically skilled individuals available in South Africa and key stakeholders need to address these problems collectively in an effort to reinvigorate the economy.


Marisa Xpatweb

Marisa Jacobs