The global mobility of workers has surged in recent years as the worldwide market for skills and talents gorws – and it would be to the detriment of the local labour market to try and isolate itself from these trends.
This is the view of Sandra Burmeister, CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment Group, who says: "Talent mobility should be seen as an opportunity and not as a threat.
“Physical mobility can mean acquisition of foreign knowledge and culture and establishment of business and personal links across borders – which are potentially beneficial for South Africa, as primarily an exporting country. At the same time, virtual mobility is facilitating new ways to combine talents across borders. Large multinationals have grasped the opportunities arising from setting up cross-cultural and cross-national teams.”
According to a recent World Economic Forum report, the advent of information technology (IT) and the growth of the knowledge economy have allowed new forms of employment to develop through remote working, telecommuting and virtual teams. In the IT sector, the advent of outsourcing has allowed some developing countries, such as India, to compete globally while retaining talents at home.
“Generally, the more developed markets have attracted people from developing countries,” says Burmeister. “There’s also been an inflow of highly skilled foreign workers to international and local businesses across the globe. However, it’s simplistic to speak of the ‘brain drain’ or the ‘brain gain’. Take Qatar for example, where out of a population of about 1 million, only 20% were born in the country.
“Today, more and more, we are talking about ‘multi-directional talent mobility’, rather than one-way migration.”
According to the International Labour Organisation, more than 200-million people currently live and work outside their country of origin. On top of this, access to transport and disparities in labour markets has created a growing global market for transient migrant workers.
“Once the economy has recovered, fast economic growth in large emerging economies like India and China will result in talent shortages,” says Burmeister. “Many nations aim to attract the same pool of highly skilled talent, relying on international flows to fill existing or future gaps in supply. It’s clear that mobility is leading to an increasing level of labour-market internationalisation and integration, and competition for talent is now influencing labour policy initiatives across the globe.
“Addressing shortcomings in national policies that may limit domestic supply of skilled workers, and ensuring that the wider environment for technical and scientific endeavour is sound, are crucial policy challenges for this country.
“At the same time, policymakers need to be mindful of international standards regarding the rights, working conditions and living environment of migrant workers and contract workers. They must ensure that those legal frameworks that do exist are reinforced and implemented so that contract workers have access to the same rights as permanent workers with regard to employment benefits and unemployment protection.
“As we prepare for the recovery, contract employment will be the first to create jobs. Temporary staffing gives businesses the flexibility to meet market demands quickly, as the economy picks up. It will also increase the participation rate in the labour markets by providing more work opportunities to more people. It will play a vital role in developing basic skills, reducing joblessness, providing a transition to permanent employment and contributing to the economy as a whole.”