The current economic crisis has already led to large numbers of job losses across the globe – but brings with it an opportunity for South Africa to recruit the foreign skills it needs to build up critical industries such as IT, construction, engineering and education over the next few years.
This is according to immigration expert Leon Isaacson, MD of Global Migration SA, who calls on private and public sectors to gain from this growth opportunity.
The global picture has changed dramatically over 2008, with declining business sectors in many countries undergoing massive restructuring and job shedding. The UK and US, for example, are currently experiencing retrenchments in the construction industry.
However, South Africa, Canada, Australia and China are experiencing shortages in the same sector, presenting an opportunity for people with the right skills to obtain work contracts in these countries.
Generally, skilled workers are the most mobile in the workforce as they are best equipped to sell their talents to countries in which opportunities are available.
"While South Africa may not be the first choice for foreign workers because of the poor exchange rate and other negative perceptions of the country, I believe it should be sold on the basis of lifestyle, the relatively cheap cost of living compared to other countries, and our first-world standing in many industries," says Isaacson.
Calling on both the government and private sector, Isaacson believes it is up to these two forces to ensure that South Africa is able to use this window of opportunity to promote and develop the country.
"Through this unexpected credit crisis, South Africa has an opportunity where it didn't before. It is essential to make use of this while it is available to us. Learning from skilled foreigners will empower our growing economy ten fold. We look on government to set an example in this respect," Isaacson says.
There is also an opportunity for South African companies to recruit South Africans currently working and living abroad.
However, expatriates wanting to return home will find that their standard of living will be worse than when they left, warns Karen Geldenhuys, MD of IT
recruitment company, Abacus Recruitment.
"Those people coming back are likely to find that their pay is worse or that companies are not prepared to pay what they want and the kind of house they lived in has doubled in price. They will find it almost impossible to get back into the labour and property market," says Geldenhuys.