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As South Africans, we are fond of travel, we have an adventurous spirit that seems to carry us far and wide. Travel anywhere in the world and you’re bound to come across a well organised group of South Africans, either tourists or expats, at your destination. It’s in our nature to travel and seek a life a little further from the usual load-shedding schedule. Often we are warmly welcomed due to our diverse skill sets, work ethic, and how we carry ourselves.

Unemployment in South Africa

South Africa is today facing an exceptionally difficult situation where there is an abundance of labour but no employment, whereas other nations have an excess of jobs but a limited work force to draw upon. Businesses in these industries may find it difficult to quickly acquire the workers they need to reach their goals and stay in business.

South Africa’s situation is diametrically opposed to that of most European countries. We have an excess of unskilled labour or on the job semi skilled labour like labourers both in the farming and industrial sectors, whereas Europe has a need for labour and tradesman like plumbers, electricians, brick layers and plasterers. European companies are also desperately seeking highly skilled individuals with honours degrees in engineering, accounting and other skills to fill the gaps in Corporations.

StatsSA reports that more than 32% of the workforce in the entire country is unemployed, with the next generation (15–24 year olds) to see an astounding 55% unemployment rate.

The employment situation in Europe

Something which has prevented South Africans from seeking out employment in Europe in the past is the idea that there aren’t enough jobs to go around which are available to non-European citizens. Where opportunity is found, you figured, there was probably somebody with an EU Passport who fit the role in the same way you might have been able to. This prevents people from looking.

With a wealth of highly qualified individuals in technical, managerial, and professional fields, South Africa represents an untapped market for professional skills. South African credentials are internationally recognised and rank among the best in the world.

Not just University graduates but also the parents of small children are uprooting and relocating abroad due to mounting local challenges and decreasing prospects. There has never been more interest in moving abroad to places like Australia and Canada, where South Africans, known fondly as “Saffas,” are highly sought after due to our high level of competence and customary commitment to our employers.

A recent web story from News24 discussed a study they carried out among young professionals who have left or want to leave South Africa. Their motive for immigrating was the primary focus of the poll. The majority of respondents stated that they would be unlikely to find any work in South Africa due to the lack of good employment opportunities, government corruption, crime, and safety. Numerous replies were sent in to the media outlet, ranging from students to IT administrators and engineers to the jobless, a common issue for many in a nation with an inadequate pace of economic growth.

It seems that this is the year – 2024, that people should be seriously looking for opportunities. Change has been on the horizon for those people seeking work abroad. We have some serious statistics to consider.

A study done in 2023 by ManpowerGroup, a global workforce solutions company, shows that there have been serious declines in the ability of EU employers to find the skilled labour that they are so desperately seeking.


75% of European employers are seeking skilled employees

The study points out that 75% of employers had trouble filling positions. 54% of responders to the survey claimed no candidates available to choose from to fill those skilled positions.

Eurostat reports that in 2023 54% of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in the EU conveyed difficulties in employers finding employees with the right skills.

In October 2023 the ManpowerGroup survey highlighted that the talent shortage has become a critical challenge worldwide. According to Mara Stefan, VP of Global Insights at the company, the figures in their annual Talent Shortage Survey have increased significantly due to the growing need for skilled workers. She told Euronews Business that the situation is becoming increasingly troublesome.

“In Europe, we see falling unemployment, meaning there are not enough skilled workers to fill existing or new jobs. To exacerbate this, Europe has an ageing population, with a global decline in birthrates further contributing to the skills and talent gaps we see today”, she exclaimed.

“This partly explains why Germany’s talent figure shortages are steeper than Finland. In 2023, Germany’s unemployment rate was 3.0%, whilst Finland’s was at 7.0%, resulting in a smaller pool for finding skilled labour,” Mara Stefan added.

Since 2018 the Talent shortages grew the most in Ireland, the UK, Spain and France with the amount of employers struggling at 81, 80, 78 and 80 percent respectively. That’s an average increase of 60% of employers saying they couldn’t find or had trouble finding a suitable candidate, in just the last 6 years!

It stands to reason that employers will inevitably have to seek skilled workers from overseas since 75% are struggling to find qualified candidates at the moment. What’s more, these countries have some of the best healthcare systems in the world. Imagine what you could save on Medical Aid Expenses alone!

If you are one of the many seeking a new life abroad this new data suggests that now is the time to do so. Start by evaluating the different countries you wouldn’t mind living in and then see if your experience and qualifications translate into something employers are looking for in the country of your choice.

Work Visa’s available

Many different Visas are available in regards and some examples of these are as follows:

Temporary Skill Shortage Visas
Employer Nomination Scheme Visas
Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) Visas
Designated Area Migration Agreement Visas
Working Holiday Visas
Training Visas
Work and Holiday Visa.
Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) Visas.

Get excited at the prospect that you may be one of the workers that employers are struggling to find. There are no guarantees in this life but you miss 100 percent of the chances you don’t take. Make 2024 the year that you find the job of your dreams in a country you have always wanted to visit.

Browse the available courses that could help you start a career in Europe, it is not only a great place to get experience but great for your CV and Linkedin profile. So many young South African’s opt to work on the yachts in the Mediterranean or the Carribean, and while these are great fun and the earning potential is great, a stint in Europe at a large company could set you up for life and even be a pathway to citizenship.