It has become quite an emotive topic in this country. But there tends to be a sharp focus on the number of “white South Africans” who up-sticks and restart their lives in a new land. Analysing emigration data can sometimes be a grim read, but there are a few myths which also need dispelling.
Debunking a few emigration rumours
That’s according to David Buckham, who recently published an article featuring several data sets on white emigration. The columnist has researched information from StatsSA, Global Economy and the UN to determine how many people are leaving, and how it’s affecting South Africa. It turns out, no-one has any need to panic.
It’s immediately made clear that this so-called “brain drain” allegedly caused by skilled workers (many of whom happen to be white, for a myriad of reasons) isn’t actually happening. In Buckham’s work, he claims that very few skilled positions are left vacant by those who leave, and plenty of talented professionals are ready to take the mantle afterwards.
Emigration: How many white South Africans have left the country?
But just how many white South Africans are deciding to move abroad? Using the available data and some of our own calculations, we’ve been able to paint an accurate picture of the emigration landscape.
- Between 2002 – 2017, there was a “net loss” of roughly 62 000 white South Africans. Now, that equates to something around the 1.5% mark of the white population over an extended period – it’s not a huge amount.
- By that metric, it’s only an average of just over 4 000 white South Africans per year leaving the country. They make up a mere 17% of the estimated 23 000 migrants who leave South Africa annually.
- Net international migration isn’t rising at a faster pace – predicted figures for 2021 show that roughly the same amount of white people will leave SA in the next five year as those who departed in the previous five-year period.
White South Africans “aren’t leaving and causing a brain drain”
A recent study by globaleconomy.com studied the threat of brain drain on 177 countries worldwide. They also concluded that any sort of “mass white emigration” isn’t doing much to disturb South Africa. Mzansi is 95th on the list, comfortably in the bottom half of countries facing this issue. Somalia is the worst-affected, whereas Sweden is the least-effected country in the world when it comes to emigration.
So yes, perhaps more people are looking at emigration as time goes by . But we’re hardly in a position where white South Africans can be deemed “a rarity”. We probably all need a little more perspective on the matter.