Sunny South Africa is a popular expat destination thanks to its relaxed culture, good work-life balance and gorgeous scenery. The coastal city of Cape Town and the concrete jungle of Johannesburg both offer fantastic lifestyles in their respective ways. As the economic centres of the country, both cities also provide fertile ground for well-qualified individuals looking for employment.
Gaps in the local labour market have long been a problem for South African companies. With many highly skilled South Africans moving abroad in search of greener pastures, positions are left vacant and companies are increasingly looking to overseas candidates to fill the gaps.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has been a major setback for many sectors, several of South Africa’s prime industries – such as finance, IT, engineering, science and agriculture – continue to grow.
It’s worth noting that being able to fill a vacancy in an industry with a skill shortage makes it much easier to obtain a work visa for South Africa. The General Work Visa requires the applicant to hold a job offer before moving to South Africa, while the Critical Skills Visa gives the applicant 12 months in the country to find work.
Skill shortages in South Africa
Below is a selection of industries and jobs that are stable in the wake of the pandemic. In some cases, demand for specialised skills has even increased post-Covid. All jobs listed appear on South Africa's Critical Skills List for 2022.
The development of South Africa's finance industry has been outpacing the country's supply of suitably skilled professionals for years, particularly in positions requiring knowledge and experience of the latest technology used in the sector. Today, financial services need to be able to cater to a wide range of concerns as many businesses and individuals are realising the importance of sound financial planning, investment and money management. Risk assessment and management remain highly valuable in a rapidly changing world.
Job opportunities: actuary, external auditor, economist, investment manager, investment analyst, tax professional, forensic accountant
South Africa has long had a shortage of qualified workers in IT, a healthy and continuously growing industry. With the Covid-19 pandemic increasing the use of technology in schools, the home and the workplace, highly skilled workers in this sector are in higher demand than ever. Ed-tech and remote work continue to grow in South Africa. The IT sector is especially prominent in the Critical Skills List, with more than 20 IT job titles being listed as in need of foreign workers.
Job opportunities: systems analyst, CIO, software developer, systems engineer, data management manager, data scientist, network analyst, security analyst
If Covid-19 has made one thing clear, it's the urgent need for a robust and reliable healthcare industry. South Africa, like many countries around the world, has had difficulty fulfilling the health needs of the population due to understaffing. Specialised nurses in fields such as community health and mental health are particularly sought after, as are pharmacists for hospital, industrial and retail settings.
Job opportunities: doctor (GP and specialist), registered nurse, nurse educator, pharmacist
Science and engineering
There is a strong focus on attracting scientists and engineers to support South Africa as a rapidly developing country. Scientists, especially in the field of conservation, are in high demand. Engineering of every kind remains a critical skill to meet the country's production and infrastructural needs.
Job opportunities: research and development manager, environmental manager, climate change scientist, conservation scientist, environmental scientist, chemist, geologist, geophysicist, materials scientist, mineralogist, hydrologist, oceanographer, general biologist, biotechnologist, microbiologist, zoologist
Engineering manager, metallurgist; and industrial, civil engineer, mechanical, aeronautical, chemical, mining, biomedical, agricultural, energy, electrical, and electronics engineers and engineering technicians
A labour-intensive sector, agriculture is one of South Africa’s prime industries. In the last couple of years, food insecurity has become a problem worldwide, and South Africa is no exception. Increased pressure on the industry calls for more manpower, especially in specialised positions that require designing and implementing mechanical infrastructure to speed up the process of production, processing and distribution of food.
Job opportunities: agricultural engineer, agricultural engineering technologist, agricultural farm manager
A lack of skilled professionals in the management field stems directly from the skill shortages in jobs further down the food chain. For managers to be effective, they need to have comprehensive industry knowledge and experience. The lengthy timeline this requires, combined with the limited pool of candidates available, makes sourcing managers from abroad a practical solution.
Job opportunities: director, policy and planning manager, corporate and general manager, sales and marketing manager, management consultant, programme or project manager