StatsSA report on migration - most are not coming back

However, the Western Cape remains low of the list of losing provinces and high on the list of returning destinations





Apr 2, 2024

StatsSA report on migration - most are not coming back

South Africa has seen a significant number of its citizens emigrate over the past two decades, with over 400,000 people leaving the country. However, only a fraction of them have returned, according to Stats SA's Migration Profile Report.

Since 2000, approximately 413,000 South Africans have emigrated to other countries, with just under 28,000 returning in 2022. This trend has been largely anecdotal, as official data on emigration and return migration has been scarce.

External analytics and data from other countries suggest that many of those leaving South Africa are wealthier, skilled individuals. The number of South Africans living abroad has steadily increased, reaching 914,901 in 2020.

The United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and Canada are the most popular destinations for South African emigrants. Notably, around 4,250 South Africans have left as refugees, with a significant number seeking asylum in the United States

While there is some talk of 'reverse emigration,' where South Africans return home after living abroad, Stats SA's data shows a different picture. The number of South Africans returning has not significantly increased, with only 27,983 returning in 2022 compared to 45,860 in 2011.

The Gauteng, KZN and the Eastern Cape remained the biggest points of departure for emigrants, and Gauteng and the Western Cape the biggest points of return for re-migrants, reflecting the relative attractiveness of the Western Cape over the rest of the country, and Gauteng’s continued economic dominance.

Despite serious concerns about the ongoing brain drain, Stats SA suggests that has marginally benefited from skilled migration from African countries, which has risen in recent years, and managed to fill some gaps in the labor market and contribute to economic growth.

The report also notes that immigrants to South Africa are no longer bothering to register as asylum seekers, likely due to the absence of enforcement of immigration rules, which make it easier to simply immigrate without filling out paperwork, fitting into local immigrant communities rather than integrating.

This combination of unregulated influx with the constant draining of skilled workers, implies a rapid skewing of the economy and demographics toward a bottom-heavy model with insufficient brainpower to sustain growth in the long term.

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