The role of skills immigration in addressing skills shortages in South Africa / by Fathima Rasool
South Africa is in the throes of a skills crisis. This situation is seriously hampering the country's economic progress and global participation. This study focuses on the analysis of skills migration in South Africa, and specifically aims to provide a conceptual framework for better cognition of the skills situation in South Africa. The study is presented in a series of four articles with a final chapter that incorporates these articles in a cognitive unit and, therefore, provide a cognitive map to better understand skills migration in South Africa. Article one of the study provides an in–depth discussion on the serious shortage of skilled workers and its impact on the progress of the country. This crisis is largely due to the failure of the national education and training system to supply the economy with much needed skills required to support economic growth and job creation. The findings of this study indicated that there are various factors that are contributing to the skills shortages in the country. Some of the factors include: poor education standards, emigration, crime and HIV. It must be noted that these factors cannot be addressed overnight. Hence, this study emphasised the role that skilled foreign workers can play in alleviating the skills shortages in the country. The contribution of foreign workers could be viewed as a short to medium solution to the skills crisis. Finally, this study has confirmed the findings of similar studies undertaken by the Centre for Development and Enterprise that opening the doors to high–skilled immigration can only serve as a means of supplementing the skills pool and hence contributing to the economic growth of the country. In relation to the above, that is, a means to address the skills shortages, article two supported the view that a more expansive and robust policy approach to skills immigration can be part of the larger solution of addressing the skills shortages of the country. This would allow for economic progress and make South Africa globally competitive. Hence, the primary purpose of this article was to determine the effectiveness of South Africa's immigration policy to support skills immigration. Attempts to recruit foreign skills to work in South African firms is proving to be a challenge as there are a number of issues in South Africa's immigration policy that makes it restrictive for organisations when recruiting skilled foreign workers. The following are some of the consequences of this restrictive policy: due to major infrastructural growth and development during the 2010 period, there is tremendous strain on the construction industry as a result of shortage of engineers, quantity surveyors, technicians and architects. Problems in retaining skilled mining staff combined with insufficient new graduates and an aging workforce is affecting the South African industry. A dearth of engineering skills at Eskom has also contributed to the power crisis. Thus it could be concluded that South Africa's skills immigration policy is problematic and not helpful in addressing the skills shortages of the country. In addition and in relation to factors that are contributing to skills shortages in the country, article three of the study focused specifically on factors that either push or pull people into a country. Push factors are generally regarded as negative factors as they push people out of the country. These factors include affirmative action, which contributes to emigration of skilled individuals, crime, HIV, economic instability, poor health care and dissatisfaction with the political situation of the country. Pull or positive factors on the other hand draw skilled South Africans to a country. These factors include: attractive salary packages, early retirement within the education sector, an opportunity to gain international work experience, an improved lifestyle and variety of career choices. Certain immigrants are pulled to South Africa as they see it as offering them economic opportunities that are not available in their home country. However, these immigrants range largely from unskilled to a limited number of highly skilled workers. This is inadequate to address the skill shortages. Hence, this situation also points towards recruitment of skilled foreign workers as a short to medium term solution. The final article of the study confirms that skills shortage is a global phenomenon. As a result there is fierce competition amongst countries to attract skilled labour so as to alleviate these shortages and improve their competitive footing in the global economy. One major way that these countries strive to achieve their goal, is through promoting targeted skills immigration programmes to attract skilled workers. In order to alleviate these skills shortages and be part of the global economy, South Africa has to take lessons from these countries. Therefore, the main purpose of this article in the study was to indicate the advantages of having a competitive skills immigration policy. It also highlighted practices that make certain countries skills immigration programmes successful. In doing so, these suitable practices could be offered to policy makers so that they can make informed decisions on improving the skills immigration policy of the country. Finally, there is a general consensus that South Africa's policy on skills immigration is in need of radical review due to the fact that it is highly restrictive, bureaucratic, user–unfriendly and costly to administer. Moreover, it serves as an impediment for business and industry to recruit skilled foreign labour into the country as a result of excessive, and often, unnecessary regulations and procedures. As a consequence, South Africa tends to attract a higher proportion of unskilled and semi–skilled foreign workers when, in actual fact, it should be attracting highly skilled immigrants.
- ETD@PUK