Xpatweb has published its Critical Skills list for 2021, detailing the jobs which are short supply in South Africa and what government and business need to do to attract skilled professionals.
The report also raises red flags around the number of skilled South Africans who are leaving the country – both physically and virtually.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted foreign skilled professionals’ perceptions and the government is encouraged to consider these views when seeking to enhance South Africa’s global popularity as a designation for skilled professionals,” Xpatweb said.
Citing data from the Boston Consulting Group, Xpatweb said that the number of people willing to relocate for work has declined since 2014.
However, the data also shows that most people’s view of work had been changed by the pandemic, with the result that countries that have managed the pandemic well by ‘flattening the curve’ grew in popularity as emigration destinations.
Desired emigration countries now include:
“On an extremely positive note, 57% of respondents indicated that they would be willing to work remotely for a company that did not have a physical presence in their home country,” the group said.
However, Xpatweb said that there is a concerning factor that 73% of organisations would also consider this option, which could further accelerate the skills brain drain without citizens even leaving the country.
“This may be good news for the fiscus, but it is a concern for South African businesses, which will now have to compete on this new virtual plane to retain the interest of local skilled professionals for whom it is becoming increasingly easy to be globally mobile while working remotely from home.”
However, the group said that there are a number of skills that are still in short supply in South Africa, with demand set to continue for at least the next few years as other countries are also facing similar skills challenges.
Virtual brain drain
The Boston Consulting Group has said that this shift in working patterns could have interesting implications, with Africa emerging as a possible virtual talent pool for Western companies.
“This is especially the case for European employers, who don’t need to deal with much time difference when employing African talent remotely,” said Rudi van Blerk, principal and recruiting director at Boston Consulting Group, Johannesburg.
“This could be a good opportunity for South African workers to gain global work experience, build their career, and get better compensation – without having to worry about visas or relocation costs.
“However, this could present the risk of virtual brain drain for the South African economy,” he said.
While there is less willingness now to pull up stakes and move to a foreign country, the data shows a high level of enthusiasm for virtual mobility – staying in one’s home country while working for a foreign employer.
“Workers in the whole of Africa have shown that they are very open to working remotely for a foreign employer,” said Wiebka Cooper, operations manager at CareerJunction.
“Remote working has grown significantly as a trend because of the pandemic and offers opportunities for workers to advance their careers even with international companies without needing to relocate.”