To my mind

Finweek English Edition - - Front page - BY RIKUS DEL­PORT rikusd@fin­week.co.za

IN­TER­NA­TION­ALLY there’s a grow­ing mar­ket for skilled peo­ple, es­pe­cially those with skills that are in short sup­ply. There’s no dis­crim­i­na­tion against such ex­perts; South Africans, too, with the nec­es­sary skills, are in­creas­ingly in de­mand. Some have al­ready made their mark over­seas.

Re­cently, the well-known Amer­i­can mag­a­zine Forbes, with a cir­cu­la­tion of close to 1m, re­ported, in sep­a­rate ar­ti­cles, on two South Africans. Both of them have al­ready made their mark in­ter­na­tion­ally.

One is the founder and CEO of Net 1 UEPS Tech­nolo­gies, Serge Be­la­mant, bet­ter known as the man be­hind smart cards.

The other is ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Roelof Botha, who’s as­so­ci­ated with the com­pany Se­quoia Cap­i­tal and is a grand­son of for­mer For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Pik Botha (see cover story).

The in­creas­ing global de­mand for skills is noth­ing new. What’s new is that the lead­ing de­vel­oped na­tions are in­ten­si­fy­ing their ef­forts to at­tract peo­ple with skills and ex­pe­ri­ence. And so the com­pe­ti­tion for scarce re­sources be­comes stiffer.

Coun­tries such as Ger­many, Canada and France are mak­ing it eas­ier for well-qual­i­fied work­ers to en­ter their job mar­kets, and now SA is pre­par­ing to en­ter the fray. How­ever, the coun­try still lacks the type of en­vi­ron­ment that will at­tract th­ese skills.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tre for De­vel­op­ment and En­ter­prise (CDE), a study has shown that we need about 9 000 pro­fes­sional im­mi­grants a year just to main­tain the cur­rent skills lev­els. And yet the coun­try could only at­tract 500 trained im­mi­grants in 2003.

SA will have to catch a wake-up if it wishes to join the race. It’s no good pay­ing lip ser­vice to th­ese im­por­tant is­sues, and Gov­ern­ment in par­tic­u­lar should take firm ac­tion.

On the one hand, we have a Min­is­ter of Labour who in­sists that, de­spite the chronic short­age of skills, af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion will con­tinue in­def­i­nitely, and at all costs, and on the other a Min­is­ter of Fi­nance who crit­i­cises its in­dis­crim­i­nate ap­pli­ca­tion.

In a re­port re­leased at the end of Fe­bru­ary, the CDE crit­i­cised the cur­rent pol­icy on pro­fes­sional for­eign­ers and ad­vo­cated a more open, flexible, en­er­getic and mar­ket­driven im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy. A ma­jor step in this di­rec­tion, as the or­gan­i­sa­tion put it, is to get rid of “mis­ap­pre­hen­sions”. Th­ese in­clude the per­cep­tion that we have a short­age of cer­tain skills only, that it’s sim­ply a short-term emer­gency, that the re­quired skills can be found lo­cally and that un­em­ploy­ment among ma­tric­u­lants and grad­u­ates is merely the re­sult of not match­ing skills and op­por­tu­ni­ties ef­fec­tively.

The harsh re­al­ity, on the other hand, is that the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem isn’t equip­ping pupils with the lit­er­acy and life skills nec­es­sary to meet em­ploy­ers’ needs.

Some still claim that there are suf­fi­cient skills and that they sim­ply have to be found. But the small num­ber of ma­tric­u­lants who pass maths ev­ery year – and we’re not even talk­ing of higher-grade maths here – is am­ple proof of our skills short­age. Or, as the CDE puts it: the fact that we’re talk­ing of scarce skills means just that – they are scarce, and there aren’t enough peo­ple with th­ese skills avail­able in the coun­try. And it’s cer­tainly not just a short-term prob­lem. As a de­vel­op­ing coun­try, we’re go­ing to have to de­velop and nur­ture skills for a very long time.

Nor is the loss of skills con­fined to one par­tic­u­lar race group. Re­search shows that South Africans of all hues, in­clud­ing black pro­fes­sion­als, have left our shores for greener pas­tures. If they’re bet­ter paid and the con­di­tions are more at­trac­tive, why not? We will have to face the fact that we’re part of a glob­alised com­mu­nity, in which all coun­tries are com­pet­ing for very lim­ited re­sources.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.