JOHANNESBURG - For many people emigration is a last resort option as it means leaving family and friends behind, while it is very stressful adjusting to a new environment.
However when economies decline as they have done in Greece, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, then emigration is undertaken for survival reasons, so the ebb and flow of emigration is a useful tool for measuring how people perceive economic prospects.
In its third quarter 2018 survey of experts, the German-based IFO Institute found that the experts' view on South Africa had deteriorated significantly compared with the first quarter, when there was a feeling of euphoria about a new beginning in South African politics after Cyril Ramaphosa became president in February. In the third quarter 2018 the index measuring the assessment of the economic situation plunged to a record low. This was even lower than during the 2009 recession year of 2009.
Many economists are now revising their 2018 economic growth figures lower after Statistics SA reported this week the economy was in a technical recession, which is that the economy had contracted for at least two consecutive quarters on a quarterly change basis. This has pushed more people into considering emigration with the First National Bank measure citing emigration as a reason for selling a house almost quadrupling to 7.8% in the second quarter 2018 from only 2.0% in the fourth quarter 2013.
Once the decision to emigrate is taken, then the next question is where do you go to?
For most people that means going to a place where English is the official language as that makes it easier to assimilate. For highly skilled young people there is no shortage of options as their skills are highly desirable, but for older less educated potential emigrants, the options are more limited.
In their case, they need the services of emigration specialists who know the ins and outs of host government requirements. One such person is Nadia Read-Thaele, director of LIO Global, World Residence and Citizenship, who said that she has seen an increase in emigration queries this year.
While the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US are top options for emigration as they make the transition easier being in many ways similar to South Africa, getting into these countries on a permanent basis is difficult.
That is why many South Africans are being forced to “buying” a second citizenship, either by a donation of sorts to the government or an investment in property.
According to Read-Thaele, Malta is a top choice for citizenship for South Africans who want to stay in the same time zone as South Africa, but it requires a significant investment of at least EUR 1 million of which a substantial portion is a donation.
A lower-cost option with a great lifestyle, but the inconvenience of being many time zones different, are the Caribbean islands, especially Grenada and Antigua, as these programmes start at just US$100,000 and offer a fast citizenship route with minimal requirements.
Closer to South Africa is Mauritius, but this requires an investment of at least $500,000, but is far easier to get to and from South Africa from Mauritius than it is to get to the Caribbean islands.