Emigration: South Africa has been Losing Skills and Wealth And there are indications that this is increasing

Publication Type: Paper
Year: 2019
Author: David Kaplan,Thomas Höppli


South Africa does not collect data on the numbers of people emigrating. The number of South African emigrants has to be obtained from the countries to which South Africans emigrate. These countries record the number of residents that were born in South Africa. The major destinations for South African emigrants can be divided into three country categories: the five large English-speaking countries – UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the so-called “Big 5”; the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – “the Gulf”; and other developed OECD countries. In 2000, there were an estimated total of about 435,000 South African residents in these three country categories. Our best estimate for 2017 (extrapolating from earlier data in a few cases) is that the total number increased by almost 90% to some 820,000. 76% of the South African emigrants were resident in the Big 5, a little over 12% in the UAE and almost 12% in the 27 other OECD countries for which data is available. With the exception of only two years, 2011 and 2014, which registered very small declines, there has been a steady net growth in the number of South African emigrants recorded in these three country categories since 2000. There has been a particularly strong net increase since 2015 with over 60,000 South Africans emigrating between 2015 and 2017. These figures – as shown in the graph below – represent the total number of South Africans living overseas, i.e. emigration net of return migration.

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