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The South African brain drain: An empirical assessment


  • David Kaplan
  • Thomas Höppli


There is no reliable data on the extent of South African skilled emigration and return migration. Statistics South Africa stopped collecting emigration data more than a decade ago. This paper provides data from the turn of the century collected in the countries to which South Africans emigrate. It first provides detailed data on emigration to the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States – the main destinations for emigrants from South Africa. It then provides estimates for the United Arab Emirates. Finally, it presents data for twenty-five other OECD countries. By contrast with widespread claims that there has been a very large brain gain as South Africans have returned following the global financial crisis, it shows that there was still a net brain drain, albeit at a slower pace. The most recent data suggest that the rate of emigration may be accelerating again.Abbreviations: OECD: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Suggested Citation

  • David Kaplan & Thomas Höppli, 2017. "The South African brain drain: An empirical assessment," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(5), pages 497-514, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:deveza:v:34:y:2017:i:5:p:497-514
    DOI: 10.1080/0376835X.2017.1351870

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    Cited by:

    1. Johan Fourie, 2020. "The settlers of South Africa and the expanding frontier," Working Papers 14/2020, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    2. Kahn, Michael & Gamedze, Thandi & Oghenetega, Joshua, 2019. "Mobility of sub-Saharan Africa doctoral graduates from South African universities—A tracer study," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 9-14.

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