South African Emigration Patterns and Their Impact on the South African Economy

Matt Di Vincere (Chief Editor)
Last Edited Sep 13, 2022

Recently it has become popular for the white population of South Africa to emigrate to other countries. Given that the stability of South Africa has been difficult to predict, it has made the younger generation wonder what opportunities they could potentially have in future years. While there are a variety of reasons that are causing this shift, it has left repercussions within the South African economy that will be difficult to recover from for many generations.

When contemplating whether immigrating to South Africa is wise of emigration is the only path as a local resident, consider the conversation below:

Why So Many Individuals Would Like to Move Elsewhere

There has been a net loss of around 62,000 white South Africans between the years of 2002 and 2017. Now, this is under 2% of the total white population, so it isn’t as much of a race crisis as once reported. This is only “net” statistics (not the nominal amount leaving), so to suggest that whites are not leaving the country is also untrue. It’s also estimated that net migration to other countries by whites is around 600,000 in the previous three-and-a-half decades.

Previously, the issue of security has always been an issue in South African and continues to be today. The average resident in South Africa has at least five locks on their doors due to the frequent thefts occurring from members of the lower class that barely have enough food to survive. Security is also an issue on the streets when travelling in taxis and pickpockets in popular areas. These issues, combined with armed violence, have always made security one of the top reasons that individuals have decided to emigrate from South Africa.

Currently, South Africa has had a great deal of instability and political uprisings that are centred around black empowerment. For whites, this is threatening to the future of their children because they are concerned that their children will not have the same opportunities that they did. Since South Africa is a unique country with its acute race relations sensitivity in the era following Apartheid, it is no wonder that the white families are examining their options for residing outside of the country if the economic opportunities and safety of their children have the potential to be shifted.

In addition to the white population that has placed queries to emigrate, there has also been a trend for citizens that are black, coloured, and Indian to leave the question as well. In fact, it’s now being reported that more black than white South Africans are leaving to other countries, as the economic downturn has pushed them out to the likes of New Zealand, Australia and Portugal. These queries have come from a wide range of talented professionals that include doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and talented professionals.

How It Impacts the South African Economy


The movement of skilled workers, regardless of race, has a major impact on the South African economy. What has ended up happening is that the professionals with the qualifications that could positively impact the economy have left leaving a hole in the skilled workers that are available to drive the success of the country further? This is not only limited to professionals, but also to skilled tradesmen that streamline the country’s economic success. Without the innovation of skilled professionals and entrepreneurs, it is quite difficult for South Africa to have progressed in the professional sphere.

Another impact that the South African economy has seen is that it has an ageing elderly population that has since retired without the younger workforce to fill the void. This void in skilled workers combined with the heightened race empowerment movements paralyzes the country’s potential economic successes as the size of their workforce continues to shrink as the elderly population decides to retire and leave the workforce.

Since the average age of immigrants has been between the ages of 20 and 40, it not only leaves a gap in the workforce, but also a gap in the workforce of subsequent generations. This impacts the country’s education system as well given that they are using government resources for many of their citizen’s education and then those citizens are deciding to relocate to better opportunities abroad. Furthermore, the children of those immigrants will be raised outside of South Africa and not only be distant from their cultural identity but also, from the opportunity to bring their unique skill sets to the South African economy.

As touched on above, the issue is cyclical. Professional workers look at the economic downturn and think their wages may be higher elsewhere. With the movement of capital being so frictionless, and with few language barriers, South Africans are emigrating for economic reasons. This further reduces both the demand in the economy and the productive capacity – further damaging the economy and making emigration look all the more alluring.

A recent IMF report signals that medium-long term growth is not looking promising (which again, highlight their need to retain skilled workers), whilst there is low per capita GDP growth. South Africa has even been downgraded from “stable” to “negative” by the S&P Global Ratings, as they highlight their growing debt problem and increasing fiscal deficits. That’s the real issue here too – South Africa frantically turning to fiscal policy when the issue seems to be just as much supply side perpetuated by emigration as it is demand side. This is further confirmed with inflationary pressures existing, which needs to be fixed with supply-side policy as opposed to worsened further fiscal spending through debt.

Final Remarks on the Subject

In summary, there has been a substantial shift in the South African population in recent years – particularly when accounting for the previous three decades. While individuals at first attributed it to whites leaving the rising black empowerment movement within South Africa, there is more to the reasoning as to why individuals have decided to leave. The threat of security has always been prominent in South Africa, but now, there are talks of lack of economic and professional opportunities that will be facing future generations. This issue is something that has the potential to make a substantial impact on the economy of South Africa since the country will be educating skilled professionals and then they will be emigrating elsewhere to popular destinations such as Australia and New Zealand. In future years, it will be fascinating to see what shifts the workforce sees due to the increasing numbers of South African citizens are emigrating to countries around the globe.


More similar posts:

Push and Pull Factors

Exploring Push and Pull Factors: The Economic Reasons Behind Immigration Decisions

Understanding the complex interplay between push and pull factors is essential in the ever-changing landscape of global migration. These economic

Major Historical & Economical Events Which Impacted Currency Rates

As long as people have been using money, economic events have had a major impact on humanity. History has been

Oil Prices Impact on Currency Rates

Oil Prices Impact on Currency Rates and Economy

The global economy has witnessed significant oil price fluctuations in recent years, driven by geopolitical tensions, supply disruptions, and the

Currency Pegging

What is Currency Pegging and Is It Healthy for the Economy?

Various countries and governments worldwide have been seeking to stabilize their countries’ economies by pegging their domestic currency to a

Economic Indicators

Underrated And Overrated Economic Indicators

Today, we will look at what I think are the three most useless economic indicators that investors and traders should

interest rates

How Does Inflation Impact Interest Rates And Bonds

Inflation, interest rates, and bonds are interconnected financial concepts that play a significant role in any economy. To understand their

trade deficit

Trade Account: How Does it impact currencies?

A fundamental building block of currency valuations Although data can receive little attention for extended periods, trade performance is a


What Is The Libor Rate And How Does It Impact Currency Rates?

The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) plays a key role in the global currency economy and major historical currency events.

International Invoicing for SME's

International Invoicing for SMEs

The UK’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) increasingly trade globally. Foreign trade allows them to broaden their reach, create opportunities

Economic Calendar UK

The table below, detailing the most important economic events that impact the economy and currency rates in 2023, can help

Brexit: Timeline, Impact and Aftermath

It’s January 31, 2023 and it’s been three years since the momentous occasion of Brexit. The United Kingdom’s departure from

Terrorism’s Impact on Economy

When there are terrorist attacks, globally, and they are making headlines , shocking the whole free world, many investors, workers,


Technical Analysis for Beginners

If you understand the fundamentals of foreign exchange rates like economic indicators and wish to be able to do comprehensive

South African Emigration Patterns and Their Impact on the South African Economy

Recently it has become popular for the white population of South Africa to emigrate to other countries. Given that the

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments