Although the latest statistics show that one in every two people in South Africa is living in poverty, the number of unskilled immigrants accounts for only a very small proportion of the poor, experts say.
Foreigners may be doing better than locals because unemployment in immigrant communities tends to be lower, said Thuthukani Ndebele, head of research at the SA Institute of Race Relations.
The levels of poverty indicated in the Stats SA report had been attributed to poor education and employment levels, according to the CEO of the Institute for Security Studies, Jakkie Cilliers. One of the keys to dealing with those factors was encouraging skilled and entrepreneurial immigrants.
“The problem is that the department of home affairs has an active anti-immigration policy across the board that deters highly skilled professionals and entrepreneurs. We need to do everything we can to bring those people into the country to invest, create jobs and share skills.”
Statistics released on Tuesday by Stats SA show that the number of people living in extreme poverty – defined as an income of less than R992 a month – has increased to almost 14 million, from just over 11 million in 2011.
Cilliers said SA needed to take into account that solving the education and skills gap could not happen overnight, although something could be done in the meantime to create jobs.
“Skilled immigrants can be of huge benefit to the economy and yet government, through bureaucracy and red tape, have taken a very hostile approach to skilled immigration.”
Shaheen Hoosen, director at the Minara Chamber of Commerce, said he had seen SA’s apparent reluctance to attract skilled foreigners into the country cause some to just give up.
“There still seems to be a large amount of bureaucracy which persists in demotivating people who can bring and transfer skills and jobs into SA.” – firstname.lastname@example.org