The publishing of the much-awaited draft of the Critical Skills list has been welcomed with open arms by industries across South Africa, it has however also been met with disdain by many ordinary South Africans.

The disdain stems from the growing unemployment rate, the rise of illegal immigrants and a lack of understanding from South Africans as to what the Critical Skills list is and what the need for it is.

We hope to clarify the above and in turn bring understanding and reassurance to South Africans who find themselves questioning the reasoning and credibility behind this list.

What is the Critical Skills List?

After consultations with the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Department of Labour, The Department of Trade and Industry and input from businesses in all industries across South Africa, the Department of Home Affairs issues a list of skills it deems to be critically needed in South Africa.

The previous list which was last issued in 2014 has been reviewed and government have now released a new draft list containing a list of skills South Africa needs to attract, in order to grow our economy and in turn create more job opportunities for all South Africans.

It is important to note that the is a draft list inviting public commentary to address any shortfalls of the list to ensure a well balanced final list is gazetted that fulfils the purpose of attracting foreign skills.

Supply versus Demand

Contrary to the thinking of many, the list does not represent Governments version of skills that no South African is able to fulfil.

“The list instead addresses the shortage in the quantity of qualified resources available currently or expected in future (based on the National Development Plan) to fulfil the positions in relation to the current industry demand for the skills. The fact that our economy’s demand for skills outweighs the quantity we have available is encouraging and means that our economy is growing.” explains Jo-lene Da Silva-Vergottini, immigration specialist at Xpatweb.

International Demand

She adds, “It is important to note that South Africa is not the only country with a Critical Skills list or shortage in terms of the quantity of skills needed for their growing economy. Many countries around the world possess a list of skills they deem critical and use the list to attract the skills they need to supplement their local resources, these countries include USA, Canada, Australia and Britain, to name a few.”

Britain for example, recently announced favourable visa conditions for much needed health care workers. This does not mean that Britain does not have any qualified health care workers, but rather that their demand for these resources currently outweighs supply.

South Africa has a similar looming crisis with more than 48% of qualified nurses currently in employment reaching retirement age in the next 15 years according to the South Africa Nursing Council. Looking at the annual intake of nurses and the growing trend of nurses and care worker leaving SA to work abroad, South Africa is not developing and retaining enough nurses to ensure we meet the demands of the industry.

What can South Africans do

The new Draft Critical Skills list has been issued and the Minister of Home Affairs is calling on all South Africans to participate in the process and submit written comments by 31 March 2021.

Da Silva-Vergottini concludes: “Over and above ensuring your voice is heard, newly matriculated South Africans and South Africans still deciding in which industry they would like to further their studies, should be encouraged to look through the Critical Skills list and choose their path based on skills that are so desperately needed in South Africa. This ensures we build a skills base in the right areas and also that matriculants study in an area in which they will be able to secure employment after their studies.”