Study claims South Africa needs skilled workers from abroad

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A new study by a South African think tank, the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), claims that the most effective way of alleviating the nation's critical skills shortage is to recruit from abroad.

The report states that despite programs such as the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA) and the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA), the South African government's statements on the importation of skills remain "confusing and ambiguous."

It also states that South Africa needs to reverse a belief in protecting against competition from skilled foreigners if it wants have a competitive economy.

CDE's executive director, Ann Bernstein, said, "We tend to regard ourselves as victims of the global skills market. If we are to break the stranglehold of the skills shortage on our economy, we need to change our attitude and exploit that market to our own advantage."

The report, "Skills, Growth, and Migration Policy - overcoming the fatal constraint," states that the demand for skills has been fueled by strong economic growth and a need for skills in the public sector.

Many South Africans are leaving the country to compete in the global market for jobs, while at the same time the existing workforce in the country is ageing and getting smaller. These are very similar to problems that other westernized nations, such as Germany and New Zealand, are facing.

According to the study, immigrant entrepreneurs would help the economy by creating jobs for South Africans. It also claimed that bringing in foreign teachers would bolster the education system and create a higher skilled native population.

Among CDE's recommendations: the government should adopt a more positive attitude toward immigration, it should eliminate sector-specific immigration quotas and certification processes, all South African institutions should put a call-out for skilled migrants to come to the country, and the government should create an autonomous department for managing immigration.

"In the long run, national success stories are driven by the development of a country's own human capital, by all means and across all fronts. These include education, training, and the encouragement of enterprises. Immigration is not a threat to these processes but a resource to develop them," said Bernstein.

"Participating in the world market in skills will not threaten black South Africans. It will improve the education and training system that is currently failing them, manage development projects that will improve their lives, and create businesses that will expand opportunities for employment.

"[South Africa's] confusing and half-hearted approach to the desperate need to import skilled people is holding back more inclusive economic growth, and failing to address some of the key constraints on expanding opportunities for black South Africans."

South Africa, like many other African nations and lesser-developed nations around the world, has suffered a chronic drain of some of its best-educated and most skilled workers. In particular, the so-called 'brain drain' has affected large numbers of nurses who have gone abroad in search of better opportunities.


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