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SA government wants to stop the brain drain

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The South African government has achieved a new first, but this one is getting mixed reactions. The Department of Home Affairs has written a White Paper on International Migration, which could be used as a means of keeping tabs on citizens outside of the country and to try and limit the number of people looking to leave. The white paper is the first of its kind, according to reports.

SA brain drainAccording to Home Affairs, cabinet has already approved a piece of legislation that would allow it to track and limit South African citizens planning to leave the country for more than three months. Though not passed into law yet, this legislation will also delineate how Government will deal with the influx of immigrants streaming into South Africa from other African countries.

“[South Africa ] fully supports the vision of an Africa where its citizens can move more freely across national borders, where intra-Africa trade is encouraged and there is greater integration and development of the African continent,” the White Paper states. However, while an “open border policy” applies to our African neighbours, the legislation proposes strict measures to ensure that citizens are not able to leave the country as easily as they have until now.

The White Paper points out that emigration has been increasing by about 9% year-on-year, with more and more black professionals looking to leave. Stats SA recently released its Stats in Brief report for 2016, which contains data on the country’s shifting demographics over the past 10 years. This report shows that countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA have absorbed a great number of South Africans over the past few years.

The Stats in Brief report found that South Africa’s population has grown significantly over the past decade, hitting just short of 56 million people in 2016, up from 40.6 million people in 1996. In that time, every population group has shown an increase in numbers – except for the country’s white population, which has declined.

Stats SA points to emigration as the primary factor. An estimated 95 000 white people have left South Africa since 2011. Between 1986 and 2000, 304 112 white South Africans left the country, with an additional 133 782 leaving between 2001 and 2005 and 112 046 between 2006 and 2011. In total, 644 940 white people have left the country over 30 years.

It comes as no surprise then that South Africa’s white population has declined from 4.59 million in 2011, to 4.52 million in 2016. Interestingly, many young white people who finish matric or university leave South Africa to go study or gain experience abroad, adding to these numbers. By contrast, the country’s black African population has grown, largely as the result of immigrants from neighbouring countries, making it hard to pinpoint how many black South Africans are leaving for better job prospects in Europe and the USA.

With the proposed legislation aiming to keep closer tabs on people leaving the country, time will tell if the “brain drain” can be stemmed.

Image credit: Copyright: alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo

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