Jobs: here’s why skilled South Africans are resigning to move overseas

SAA aircraft parked at OR Tambo International airport in Johannesburg. Picture: Waldo Swiegers Bloomberg

SAA aircraft parked at OR Tambo International airport in Johannesburg. Picture: Waldo Swiegers Bloomberg

Published Aug 8, 2022


Cape Town - While a number of countries around the world have experienced the phenomenon called the “great resignation”, in South Africa it’s been different as highly skilled employees have called it quits.

According to CNN, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, a record number of low-wage workers from the US, Australia, France and the UK quit their jobs due to dissatisfaction with working conditions in the hope of finding something better.

However, BusinessTech reported that for South Africa it differs as qualified highly skilled workers are not only resigning, but also moving abroad to find better opportunities.

“Such a skills exodus is nothing new for South Africa, with an estimated one million people having emigrated between 2015 and 2020,” said Dalya Ketz, MD at Gcubed Boutique Recruitment.

“But it is particularly worrisome as employment opportunities abroad have increased dramatically, particularly for skilled workers,” she said.

Ketz added that in order for companies to remain competitive, a high-paying salary is no longer enough and that they need to be more flexible in working conditions.

Despite contributing factors such as retrenchments, termination of contracts and retirement, research by Old Mutual’s reward management platform revealed that about 69% of HR respondents confirmed that companies are struggling to retain staff and attract new talent.

Furthermore, international companies acknowledge the situation and are prepared to assist with relocating entire families abroad.

“The reasons behind South Africa’s mass resignations are varied but many relate to a desire for more flexibility… There is great dissatisfaction where companies do not offer remote or hybrid working arrangements, even post-lockdown,” said Ketz.

She added that “stress levels are higher” as teams are expected to achieve more with fewer resources due to hiring freezes or difficulties replacing those who previously left the company.

“Burn-out is a very real risk, and employees are taking every opportunity to seek a better work-life balance elsewhere,” she said.