Leaving South Africa for the UK: Zimbabweans turn to carer jobs

By Lenin Ndebele for News24.com

  • Some Zimbabweans hope to find accommodation in the UK when their SA permits expire.
  • The UK has been hit by a shortage of carers due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Carers earn up to R600,000 a year in the UK.

Some Zimbabweans in South Africa say they are looking to settle in the United Kingdom (UK) when Zimbabwe’s exemption permits expire in December, and they are forced to leave the country.

Percy Ncube has worked in the hospitality industry since arriving in South Africa 15 years ago, but his hospitality skills do not allow him to earn a living wage back home in Zimbabwe, where he would earn around 1,500 rands a month, and there is no rocking the culture there.

“I have nothing that I can call mine in Zimbabwe. Going back could easily lead to depression for me,” he said.

Unlike many who believe the Zimbabwean government should negotiate an extended stay for them in South Africa, he is among those looking to the UK for a lifeline.

“I have just completed a nursing assistant course. I am now applying for internships. I’m sure by January I will be in the UK. I have friends who have gone down this path,” he said.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, demand for home carers in the UK has skyrocketed. The 2021 State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report indicates that some 105,000 carer vacancies are advertised daily.

The UK is also looking to fill healthcare jobs left vacant by the deaths of frontline workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to recruitment center Aim Global, the average caregiver salary in the UK is R442,000 per year (or R227 per hour) and an experienced caregiver can earn up to R600,000 per year. Most white collar jobs barely fall within this salary range in South Africa.

For Ncube, the caregiver journey will provide him with a life-changing opportunity.

He said:

If I knew this avenue, I would have gone earlier.

He added: “With such an income, I can start building a house at home and send my children to better schools than me by working in South Africa.”

Caregiver jobs in the UK involve helping people who have difficulty with daily activities. For example, the elderly, people with disabilities and chronic and mental disorders. Caregivers work in clients’ homes or in special care facilities.

In Zimbabwe, some accredited colleges and agencies now offer short courses in caregiving. The fees vary from R1,700 to R34,000 depending on the duration of the course.

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