During a 17 August webinar, hosted by the Forum for Expatriate Management and chaired by the Director of Xpatweb, Marisa Jacobs, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) confirmed that the final list will be tabled on forum for the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) within the last quarter of 2021.
If unhindered by further delays, the list will be Gazetted by the Minister of the DHA, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Until such time that the new list is Gazette, the 2014 list remains the list that will be used for all critical skills submission and adjudication procedures.
Why is the Critical Skills List so important?
The CSL is a list of occupations that are considered critical while there is a limited number of similarly skilled and qualified local candidates to choose from.
Every employer in South Africa who employs critically skilled individuals and who is tasked with attracting and retaining these skills, is impacted significantly by the CSL and the immigration legislation changes that follow its release. The list enables them to source the listed skillsets from abroad and bring in specialists to fill those positions.
The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) plans to provide updated CSL reports to DHA on a bi-annual basis subject to availability of research funding. Consequently, this will simplify the work visa application process for those individuals with critical skills that are in high demand.
Further to this, the DHET can utilise the CSL when allocating funds towards higher educational needs. Meaning, if the CSL indicates that there is a paucity of engineers across a specific engineering sector, DHET can provide scholarships, bursaries or other forms of incentives to individuals within that industry to accommodate for an ongoing demand.
How was the Critical Skills List compiled?
DHET used detailed methodologies, exercises and activities to assess the current employment trends when preparing a draft list of skills shortages. They received input and commentary from the public, governmental stakeholders, lobby groups, professional bodies, higher learning institutes, black management forums, unemployed South African graduates, and other private business formations. It is important to note, that the DHET was supportive of input from selected sources with relevant contributions to the creation of the CSL.
By partnering with large multi-national companies across South Africa, Xpatweb conducted ground-breaking annual critical skills surveys. Their research was key to ascertain the shortage of critical skills that were still very much in demand, which were subsequently re-included in the draft Critical Skills List. This marked the only private sector company that formed part of the formal consultation process with the research now forming part of legislation.
The feedback and research were consolidated, considered and then measured against data on all listed occupations, before making a draft CSL later published by the DHA.
The lasting effect of lockdowns and looting
In compiling the CSL, the methodologies used were overtaken by unforeseen events. Not only has the COVID-induced lockdown played a part in delaying the release of the CSL, but it has created a knock-on effect on all types of commerce, which resulted in business closures and job losses.
Companies were forced to let go of employees with skills that were considered to be in short supply. Suddenly there was a pool of available SA citizens with skills that were listed in the CSL, which means the occupation in question, may no longer be required to be mentioned in the list.
Using a report from National Treasury, the DHET has been working to determine which industries would be affected by the lockdown over a longer period. Researchers had to separate the data that would be affected by lockdown and measure it against the trend of economic conditions, then deduce what the result would be on those occupations.
However, the public unrest and violent lootings that rocked South Africa during July 2021, was the nail in the coffin for many businesses. This adversely affected the supply and demand of jobs, which according to Stats SA figures, has had an immediate effect on unemployment. Economists and employment specialists speculate that the unrest alone had placed nearly 50 000 jobs at risk.
In light of these events, the research towards compiling the CSL had to be adjusted once more. A final draft CSL has been handed over to the DHA for consideration, where they consulted with various government departments, such as the Departments of Health, Tourism, Public Enterprises and NEDLAC for additional input.