Stats SA’s Migration Profile Report for South Africa: A country profile 2023 reveals the numbers of people who have left the country and those who have returned.

Since 2000, around 413,000 South Africans have emigrated. However, in 2022, just under 28,000 had returned.

In lieu of any official data from Stats SA and government departments like Home Affairs, information and trends on emigration (and reverse emigration) in South Africa have typically been left to the anecdotes of businesses and analysts in the industry.

The latest data from Stats SA, using information from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, shows that the number of South Africans living abroad has increased significantly over the last two decades.

In 2000, there was a total of 501,600 South African citizens residing abroad. In 2020 the number reached 914,901.

Over 413,000 South Africans left the country over 20 years.

Approximately 4,250 South Africans have succeeded in leaving as refugees, significantly since around 2014.

This departure has been most successful in the United States, where over 1,350 South Africans entered as asylum seekers in 2022.

With regard to ‘return migration’, Stats SA said that an emerging narrative among certain sectors – like the property sector – is that South Africans are returning to their homeland after a period abroad, drawn by the lower cost of living, weather and family.

However, Stats SA’s data, based on the 2011 and 2022 census, reveals that there is no acceleration in the number of South Africans returning.

In 2011 around 45,860 South Africans returned. In 2022 only 27,983 South Africans said the same.

The UN data and the census data are neither aligned, nor do they track the exact same thing. So South Africa’s problems with officially tracking emigration data persist.

[Photo: Photo by Mpho Mojapelo on Unsplash]