Importing skilled labour to bridge the gap


South Africa is advised to relax visa regulations and welcome more skilled immigrants in catalysing its economic growth.

Ann Bernstein, Executive Director for the Centre of Development and Enterprise spoke to CNBC Africa about this, during the World Economic Forum (WEF).

“Skilled migration is uniformly a positive around the world and South Africa desperately needs more skilled immigrants,” she said.

Bernstein said that skilled people will help grow the country faster, be more entrepreneurial and train South Africans.

“We have to couple the debate on visa regulations with managing migration and the distinction between skilled and unskilled [labour].”

Bernstein is in favour of outsourcing skills because of the current education system in Africa. “Yes, you must fix the education skill system, but that will take time even if the governments were to do it properly, and many are not,” she added.

It is a form of foreign direct investment. Bernstein acknowledges that there are no simple answers to youth unemployment and she explained that entrepreneurs are a very small “special minority” of the country that needs to be nurtured and they will in turn create jobs.

“There are two issues that are critical if we want to talk about if we want to talk about unemployment seriously- you have to grow countries at  a much higher and faster rate but you have to do it in a labour intensive way which means you have to look at your labour relations,” explained Bernstein.

She added that South African labour relations are holding the country back because it is not able to go after the low skill, low wage manufacturing. She suggested that even two to three million of the said jobs could improve the economy.

The Centre of Development has launched a report focused on private schooling for the poor which is global trend in many developing countries. This project is driven by “entrepreneurs” who are starting schools that are not “fabulous” however, they are better than the local public schools.

South Africa is behind this global curve.

“This is a growing industry, although official figures are lower, we estimate that somewhere between 8% of the school going population are in schools that are subsidized up to 60% by the government,” said Bernstein.