SA has the world's worst brain drain

Cape Argus, 15 April 2008

Survey of 55 countries shows productivity slumping as power crisis hits home.

South Africa has the world’s highest brain drain and the worst skills shortages of 55 countries studied, and its productivity is plummeting, says a new survey.

Productivity SA and the 2007 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook also ranked South Africa last on infrastructure, internet costs, health problems, availability of engineers and life expectancy among the 55. Its top rating last year for electricity to industry is likely to plummet this year.

Liza van Wyk, the CEO of skills training organisation BizTech, warns that the situation is worsening and loadshedding is exacerbating it.

“If you go into any shopping centre or business where the power is off, you see staff sitting around chatting. Managers have failed to find productive work for them to do when the lights are off, this will cut into profits, see job losses, add to inflationary pressures and see South Africa’s economic ratings fall further.

“South Africa can’t afford to have managers fail to plan for load shedding, especially when Eskom is more reliable about sticking to schedules,” Van Wyk said. She suggests that paper work, deliveries, cleaning, calling clients and staff duties that don’t require electricity should be slotted into work schedules.

Overstretched staff, a lack of training and poor management saw productivity ratings plunge after a decade of sustained growth – last year SA fell from 38th to 50th out of 55 countries.

SA also has among the world’s worst shortages ofthose with finance skills and senior management competence, ranking 52nd and 51st respectively.

BizTech’s course: Ultimate Organisational Skills is seeing more companies wake up to the cost of having non-productive staff.

Debbie Watson, a trainer for Ultimate Organisational Skills, says, “Work volume plays a huge role in terms of slowing people down, and with skills shortages administrative staff in some sectors are swamped with more work than they can handle. They need help in identifying what tasks are critical from a business point of view. An overwhelmed individual is likely to do what is easiest first and delay doing complicated, but perhaps more critical tasks.

Productivity SA research showed that SA had a 3.2% per annum increase in private sector productivity since 1996 which fuelled international competitiveness. Van Wyk says: “The more productive a national economy is, the higher the personal income of workers and the lower inflation.”

The 2007 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, of which Productivity SA is a partner institute, showed a drop in SA rankings from 38th to 50th position out of 55 countries. Factors contributing include South Africa’s economic performance competitiveness dropping from 40th in 2006 to 54th in 2007, high unemployment and low GDP.