What the skills shortage means for developer salaries in South Africa

Qualified professionals are leaving South Africa in droves, citing the ongoing problems of crime, economic uncertainty, and political problems as reasons for their emigration.

This has become increasingly apparent in emigration statistics, and for every skilled worker coming to South Africa, eight are leaving.

The problem cuts across racial lines, as the number of black professionals leaving South Africa now exceeds white emigrants.

MyBroadband’s 2019 IT Salary Survey revealed that 46% of IT professionals in South Africa are planning to leave South Africa permanently, or work abroad, in the near future.

The survey was conducted in April and was completed by 3,055 respondents from a wide range of IT professions and companies.

To determine whether this lack of skills affected the salaries offered to experienced developers, MyBroadband spoke to tech talent marketplace OfferZen.

Effect on salaries

OfferZen said that while salaries obviously played a big role in the success of recruitment, there is a lot of importance placed on value, too.

“With software developers, the supply/demand/salary dynamics don’t apply as much as supply/demand/value of the job,” OfferZen said. “Those are different things – the salary and value of the job.”

OfferZen said that while there is a shortage of great developers, this has not had a major impact on market salaries.

“Yes, the number of great developers in South Africa is less than the demand for them, and yes, the market is competitive. This doesn’t, however, seem to be having a material impact on market salaries,” OfferZen said.

“What we have seen is that if you want to compete for great talent you need to offer more than just money – you need to offer value.”

Benefits and environment

OfferZen said that software developers place great importance on the value of a job, and over the years it has found that its most companies have strong offerings for compensation and the nature of the work itself.

“Competitive salaries and comprehensive performance rewards are definitely playing an important role,” OfferZen said.

“On a similar note, what’s important with the day-to-day are the level of freedom, challenges, variety, autonomy, responsibility within the role and the impact the work has on the company’s mission.”

There are many non-salary related reasons developers choose to work for one company over another, however.

“It turns out how people feel about working for the company is really important; ultimately it’s the feeling of belonging,” OfferZen said.

“If a potential employee is excited about the team they’d be working with, has the same values as the company, and they are really passionate about the mission the company wants to achieve, they are more likely to join.”

Career growth is also incredibly important to applicants, with developers looking for mentorship, coaching and skills-building opportunities.

“Tech professionals tend to have the luxury of taking their pick,” OfferZen said.

“So between similar offers from different companies, indirect compensation like health cover, retirement contribution, leave, flexi-time, remote work opportunities, the fact that the person can choose the hardware they want to work on, free/subsidised lunch, etc. can also be a deciding factor.”

If a company can’t beat the competition on compensation or other factors, offering the chance for career growth can often attract skilled developers.

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What the skills shortage means for developer salaries in South Africa