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Skills shortage and Xenophobia how to get opposites to attract

Skills shortage and Xenophobia how to get opposites to attract

By Tracey Lander

On 20 October 1998, the Republic of South Africa assented to Act no 97 of 1998 known as the Skills Development Act. The introduction was aimed at:

"Providing an institutional framework to devise and implement national, sector and workplace strategies to develop and improve the skills of the South African workforce, to integrate those strategies within the National Qualifications Framework contemplated in the South African Qualifications Authority Act, 1995, to provide for learnerships that lead to recognised occupational qualifications, to provide for the financing of skills development by means of a levy-grant scheme and a National Skills Fund, to provide for and regulate employment services; and to provide for matters connected therewith."

We are ten years after the introduction and in my experience we find companies adhering to the legislation but adherence is different from understanding the impact of development (and in some cases lack of development). Compliance in the form of completing a workplace skills plan does not mean that South African rands are being invested in the right people and the right skills. How do we know that the skills we are giving our people are the skills required in the future? What are the skills shortages that we face?

We hear about skills shortages worldwide and South Africa seems to be the place that foreign countries can have pick of the crop.

“ Emigration data from 1970 to 2002 show three major peaks: in 1977, 1986 and 1994. While reasons for emigration are varied, and unique to individuals, many choose to settle in more developed countries in Europe or North America, where the earning potential for skilled labour tends to be higher.

The exodus of skills from the country – described as a 'brain drain' - has caused concern for some. Emigrants include IT professionals, doctors and dentists, scientists, nurses and teachers. For example, almost 17 000 science and technology professions (about 1% of the total science and technology workforce), left the country between 1994 and 2001.

Many poorly paid teachers and nurses, as well as emergency staff, such as firemen, have sought more lucrative positions in their professions overseas.

The downfall of the 'brain drain' is a shortage of skilled labour at home. A recent report suggests that the country does not have enough engineers to fulfil its infrastructure development ambitions over the coming years.” (SouthAfrica.info reporter)

Reading article and information from those who have left makes for sad reading  10% of the people in Auckland were born in South Africa” (ENZ Piet and Alison).


To further complicate matters we have xenophobic attacks that prevent the attraction of skilled labour from other countries. The immigration act of 2002 allows for the employment of foreigners only if the employer can demonstrate that a South African Citizen or permanent resident is not available for the position when considering issuing out of work permits. However current legislation offers no reward for the attraction of this foreign skill. This translates into a number of highly skilled people unable to obtain employment in South Africa.

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Gary Watkins

Gary Watkins

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