5 skills in higher demand than C-suite executives in South Africa

Xpatweb has released its 2020/21 Critical Skills Survey Report which shows that ICT professionals and engineers are the professions in the highest demand in South Africa.

The report was compiled using data from 220 multi-national and corporate firms which provided feedback about the level of difficulty when sourcing skills.

The survey showed that many skills are so hard to find in South Africa that businesses are forced to recruit talent from across the globe.

The top skills which local businesses are struggling to recruit are engineers, ICT professionals, foreign language speakers, media and marketing specialists, and artisans.

Other scarce skills include C-suite executives, senior financial executives, health professionals, science professionals, and accountants.


Xpatweb managing director Marisa Jacobs said the survey revealed that 77% of organisations were struggling to recruit and obtain these critical skills in South Africa.

This has led to many organisations seeking suitably qualified and experienced candidates beyond South Africa’s borders to fill these posts.

Local firms typically look towards Europe, India, the UK, USA, China, and Australia to recruit scarce skills.

To attract skills internationally, however, is easier said than done.

The survey revealed that South Africa has to compete on a global stage for critical skills, which is difficult considering the country’s political and economic challenges.

The United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom are looking for the same scarce skills as South Africa.

ICT professionals, C-suite executives, and engineers are in demand across the world as countries need to fill posts in these fields to grow their economies.

Jacobs advised South African policy makers to make it easy for skilled professionals to gain access to work and business opportunities locally.

Skills recruitment

Delving a bit deeper into the scarce skills related to ICT professionals and engineers reveals a dire shortage.

The number of businesses which are struggling to recruit engineers rose from 16% to 18% over the last year.

Mechanical engineers were most in demand, followed by maintenance engineers, chemical engineers, and industrial engineers.

The problem is aggravated by skills being lost to the brain drain as countries like Australia and the United Kingdom are aggressively recruiting local engineers.

The demand for ICT skills also remains unprecedented as 14% of businesses struggle to source skilled professionals in this field.

The most sought-after ICT skills in South Africa are:

  1. IT Application Developers
  2. Data Analysts
  3. Data Scientists
  4. Software Developers
  5. Software Engineers
  6. IT Program Managers
  7. Digital Skills
  8. Network Architects

“As big data, robotics, AI, machine learning and IoT shape the way of doing business, sourcing these skills is a priority that cuts across all sectors,” Jacobs said.

98% of South African companies said critical ICT skills were now essential to their ongoing operational success.

Some businesses were so desperate for ICT skills that they were willing to employ qualified yet still unexperienced professionals.

Even if experience was required, companies were accepting professionals with one to three years of experience.

Experienced IT professionals are so scarce that only 28% of companies were insisting on more than five years of experience.

Now read: Here are the most critical tech skills in South Africa

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5 skills in higher demand than C-suite executives in South Africa