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A New Critical Skills List, but Does It Do Enough For South African Employers?


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A New Critical Skills List, but Does It Do Enough For South African Employers?


29th March 2023


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The national Critical Skills List is a gazetted publication listing all skills that the South African government deems necessary to stimulate economic growth, but which cannot be sourced within the country.

The list was previously updated in 2014 and again, only recently, in February and August 2022.


In response to the need for relevant data on critical skills, Xpatweb launched its annual Critical Skills Survey in 2017. This service gives employers the opportunity to identify the critical skills they need currently for their company and, through Xpatweb, share their requirements with policymakers.

Does The Current Critical Skills List Solve Employers’ Problems?


South Africa continues to struggle with critical skills shortages, thus employers are directing a new recourse to source these talents from abroad.

The value of foreign talent includes:

  • Reducing the current shortage of skilled workers that can keep companies in business and help them remain profitable.
  • Improving the operational integrity and service delivery of businesses so all South Africans have access to products and services that better the quality of their lives.
  • Helping South Africa to become competitive and remain significant in today's global markets.
  • Developing local entrepreneurship and innovation by bringing in talent from technologically and economically advanced regions.
  • Driving economic growth through the very skills the government has identified as essential to that outcome.
  • Providing interim replenishment of talent lost to the 'brain drain' to allow the country time to develop comparable skills locally.

Unfortunately, if the required occupations do not appear on the national Critical Skills List, then employers will be unable to bring them into the country on a Critical Skills Visa.

Yet, even after the most recent update to the list in August last year, the latest Critical Skills List may still not solve employers’ problems when trying to recruit foreign talent.

But how can employers provide their input if they feel the Critical Skills List needs to be improved?

Xpatweb Critical Skills Survey Carries Employers’ Voice to Government

Since Xpatweb's Critical Skills Survey was first launched in 2017, its results have evolved into a respected authoritative reference among policymakers.

It has been hosted annually over the past 7 years, with the 2020 and 2021 data being combined due to lockdown restrictions.

Each year, the firm submits its findings for consideration by policymakers. However, in 2020, it was invited to present its data to several government departments, including the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), involved in compiling the latest Occupations in High Demand (OIHD) list. 

The output of that exercise carried through to the development of a new national Critical Skills List in 2021. During the period of public commentary, employers raised concerns that several occupations had controversially been omitted from the List.

After the List was finally gazetted in February 2022, Xpatweb's research and input again contributed to its amendment in August 2022. This update saw the return of some previously abandoned occupations, including Corporate General Manager, certain Engineering roles, and several Health Sector professions.

Such wins were only possible because private groups lobbied for these occupations to be reviewed and because sufficient data was collected to justify their demands. Xpatweb’s Critical Skills Survey results were an important dataset in this process.

Pushing For a Regularly Updated Critical Skills List

Xpatweb continues to actively participate in government programs as an ambassador of the critical skills community.

Jacobs says the firm plans on submitting this year’s Critical Skills Survey results to the government as it has faithfully done in the past.

“It is our belief that the Critical Skills List must be updated at least every two years to remain aligned with employers’ needs, not every 10 years”, says Jacobs.

Jacobs urges critical skills employers to take part in Xpatweb’s Critical Skills Survey, a long-running service that has helped shape the latest Critical Skills List.

“This is your chance to create the Critical Skills List you need,” she says.

Last year’s results and the current survey can be accessed via Xpatweb’s website here:



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