By Chris Gilmour
A number of factors have recently persuaded me that there is a largely-unreported migration of people out of South Africa.
Official statistics are not necessarily showing this, but StatsSA relies on people leaving the country to inform them of their permanent departure, which is something that they rarely do.
It should be stated up-front that the people who are leaving comprise a wide spectrum of demographics – unlike in the 1960s, 70s and 80s when it was almost entirely white people taking off, for fear of a race war breaking out in SA.
Today, it is often highly-skilled black professionals who are leaving – for a perceived better future for themselves and their children.
I use the word exodus advisedly, as I am convinced it is genuinely a massive outflow of people from this country.
Factors that I have discerned that point to this include the collapse in residential house prices in Johannesburg and the inability of the state vet at Onderstepoort to cope with the volume of rabies tests sought by emigrants wanting to take their animals with them overseas,.
Then there is the ease of gaining access to good private schools in SA when previously there were waiting lists, and golf and country clubs actively seeking new members when previously there were, again, long waiting lists.
Talking to estate agents in the past three years, the response has been the same.
Roughly 70% of house sellers in Jo’burg are either “semigrating” to Cape Town or are leaving the country altogether.
Thus there is little – if any – recycling of demand back into the Jo’burg residential property market, which explains much of the slump in Jo’burg house prices.
To be allowed to take one’s pets overseas to most countries, it is necessary to provide evidence that the animal is rabies-free.
To achieve this, a so-called “titre test” is performed on the animal’s blood. This is normally done at the state vet at Onderstepoort and a certificate is provided.
However, such is the demand by people leaving the country that the state vet is now overwhelmed and simply can’t cope.
Vet practices are now sending titre samples to Germany for testing – which is much quicker than sending them to Onderstepoort.
The third factor – education – is admittedly more tenuous.
Good private schools apparently no longer have waiting lists for admission, but this could be due to the exceptionally poor state of the local economy, and perhaps not so much to emigration.
However, in company narratives, the school companies which are listed have noted emigration as a contributing factor to decreased demand.
The same goes for golf and country club membership.
One has to remember, though, that golf club memberships are declining globally, so the decline in SA memberships may not necessarily be a reliable indicator of heightened emigration.
Putting all of these factors together, one paints a pretty bleak picture of the SA economy.
South Africa can ill-afford an exodus of skills.
When the economy turns, the lack of skilled and educated people will weigh heavily on both the economy and society.
Chris Gilmour is a writer, broadcaster, and investment analyst