“Here is why I left South Africa”

Skilled, qualified South African professionals are leaving the country in search of better opportunities for themselves and their families.

The problem has become so severe that for every skilled professional coming to South Africa, eight are leaving.

This skills shortage has created increased demand for young, qualified professionals in local industries, but many continue to be driven out due to the problems of crime, corruption, and affirmative action.

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

South Africa’s myriad problems have made it a common ideal for young professionals to move overseas and further their career in a safer and more rewarding environment.

This philosophy has become such a prevalent default position for graduates and young professionals that many have to defend their will to remain in South Africa instead of enquiring why others are leaving.

Conversations about careers are increasingly centred around how to obtain citizenship overseas, or the opportunities which can be provided by a second passport.

To find out how young South Africans fare once they emigrate, MyBroadband spoke to several professionals who recently moved overseas.

These professionals all have tertiary academic qualifications and are currently furthering their careers overseas after leaving South Africa.


Professional A – London

London

  • Age – 23
  • Qualification – BscHons Mathematical Statistics
  • Time since emigration – 4 months

What was the last job you had in South Africa, and what is your current job?

I was a quantitative analyst at one of South Africa’s largest banks. My current job is as an actuarial analyst at an actuarial software and consulting company in London.

What were the main reasons you decided to move overseas?

I wanted to experience life in a different country while I am still young, as it also provides easier opportunities for travel. I also think that when it comes to my future and potentially starting a family one day, I would rather do it here than in South Africa. I feel that my future children would have more opportunities to be successful in whichever careers they chose, as there seem to be more job opportunities in the UK as well as a higher minimum wage.

Do you prefer living where you are now compared to South Africa?

I do. Mostly because it is easier to travel from here, but also because systems work better here. Things are more efficient – from the numerous public transport opportunities to the free healthcare.

Do you feel that there are more prospects for skilled South African professionals overseas than in their own country?

No, not necessarily. Not from my experience anyway. It was equally easy to find a job here as it was when I was first looking in South Africa. I do think there are more prospects here for the unskilled than there are in South Africa. Many companies here have training and apprenticeship programmes.

Are you earning more or less now than you were earning at your last job in South Africa?

I am earning nearly double what I was getting in South Africa, but I am living in London where the cost of living is significantly higher, so I think that comparatively it isn’t that much more than what I was earning in South Africa.


Professional B – Amsterdam

Amsterdam

  • Age – 27
  • Qualification – MCom Finance
  • Time since emigration – 8 months

What was the last job you had in South Africa, and what is your current job?

Previously, I was a data consultant, and now I still work as a data consultant.

What were the main reasons you decided to move overseas?

The opportunity to work at a bigger-named company and build my CV. Also for the life experience.

Do you prefer living where you are now compared to South Africa?

Yes, I prefer a lot of aspects: the type of lifestyle, city life, unlimited activities, the constant bustle, social dynamics, no longer needing a car, and the ease of movement. Everything just works and is super smooth. The main things I miss are the friends and family, the larger living spaces, and the South African culture.

Do you feel that there are more prospects for skilled South African professionals overseas than in their own country?

Like you can’t believe! The shortage for skilled professionals here is insane.

Are you earning more or less now than you were earning at your last job in South Africa?

I am earning around double in rand terms, but I say I live roughly the same in relative terms due to the increased cost of living.


Professional C – London

London

  • Age – 26
  • Qualification – Hospitality Management
  • Time since emigration – 3 months

What was the last job you had in South Africa, and what is your current job?

My previous job was an accounts assistant in a five-star hotel, and now I am an accounts assistant at a retail distribution company.

What were the main reasons you decided to move overseas?

New opportunities and the opportunity to travel more.

Do you prefer living where you are now compared to South Africa?

There are ups and downs to living in the UK, but the same goes for South Africa. Public transport in the UK makes life a lot easier, and safety is another major factor. South Africa is a beautiful country that has a lot to offer as well.

Do you feel that there are more prospects for skilled South African professionals overseas than in their own country?

Yes, I do.

Are you earning more or less now than you were earning at your last job in South Africa?

I am earning more overseas than I was in South Africa.


Professional D – London

London

  • Age – 25
  • Qualification – BscHons Computer Science and Software Engineering
  • Time since emigration – 3 months

What was the last job you had in South Africa, and what is your current job?

I worked for a software company and consultancy in South Africa, and I was lucky enough to stay with them and transfer to their London office.

What were the main reasons you decided to move overseas?

My main reason was travel. It is, in my opinion, very difficult to travel overseas from South Africa due to many reasons; one being the rand is very weak compared to the currencies of other countries (especially in Europe and North America), and another is the geographical location of South Africa.

Another reason for moving was money. Earning pounds compared to rand is a huge bonus, especially whilst I am young.

Do you prefer living where you are now compared to South Africa?

It has its pros and cons. One of the biggest things I miss about home is my family and friends. Another thing is the weather; you don’t realize how great the weather is in South Africa until you’ve left. There’ve been days in summer here that have been colder than winter back home.

It does have a lot of advantages though – there is so much to do and there is something new happening here every week. There is also such a great energy in the city and that is great to experience.

The biggest thing for me is the security, though. We can walk in the streets in the middle of the night without feeling nervous and our house has no burglar bars or electric fences (which definitely took some getting used to). The public transport here is also amazing and works so well.

Do you feel that there are more prospects for skilled South African professionals overseas than in their own country?

I was lucky that there was a lot of demand in my field, so I never battled to find a job. I do, however, know of many people that battled to find jobs in South Africa after graduating and had to leave the country because there were opportunities for them overseas.

So overall I would say yes, there are more prospects for skilled professionals overseas than in South Africa, which is quite sad.

Are you earning more or less now than you were earning at your last job in South Africa?

I am earning almost three times as much as I was in South Africa, and although it is a lot more expensive to live here, I am able to save more money and travel a lot more than I did when I was living in South Africa.


Professional E – Belgium

Belgium

  • Age – 26
  • Qualification – MSc Chemical Engineering
  • Time since emigration – 2 years

What was the last job you had in South Africa, and what is your current job?

I was previously a consultant to a number of domestic and international mining houses.

What were the main reasons you decided to move overseas?

There were several drivers. I am a dual citizen and that was a significant factor that drew me to Europe. Of course, the usual reasons of high crime rates and low earnings in comparison to other countries were big push factors. Corruption and the increasingly racist rhetoric in the country also left me doubting that I would ever want to raise my children in South Africa.

However, for me the biggest reason was the constant realisation that I would not be able to work at the peak of my field within South Africa. I was fortunate enough to be a consultant for two years in South Africa; it gave me a lot of exposure to what typical engineers did in the country, and it made me really despondent.

I wanted to design and work on the newest technologies and this simply isn’t done in South Africa. For that I had to go to the US or EU.

Do you prefer living where you are now compared to South Africa?

Absolutely, there is no question in my mind that I made the right choice, and I have no plans to return. I am glad I made this choice early in my life when such a move is possible. I know of many friends and family members who waited and are now married or with children who would like to move, but find the process extremely difficult.

I particularly love the safety here; being able to walk around at night at all hours without the constant mantle of fear that one has in South Africa is an indescribable feeling.

I love that things just work, be they government services, banks, or private company call centres. I most love that people here generally take care of their community and surroundings, even in big cities. They don’t burn their hospital down to protest not having a school. They don’t destroy and litter. There is a feeling of solidarity here. South Africa often left me with a feeling of everyone for themselves.

Do you feel that there are more prospects for skilled South African professionals overseas than in their own country?

Yes and no. I think a skilled professional in South Africa may have an easier ride since the market for their skills is far less competitive than in Europe, where you are competing with the best and brightest from all over the world.

However, overseas they can enjoy a deeper integration with the international community and more opportunities to work at the cutting-edge of a field.

In South Africa, one is able to be a big fish in a small, isolated pond. The world outside of it, however, is far more exciting and dynamic.

Are you earning more or less now than you were earning at your last job in South Africa?

Significantly more.


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“Here is why I left South Africa”