Leaving SA for the UK: Zimbabweans look to caregiver jobs

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By Lenin Ndebele for

  • Some Zimbabweans are hoping to find a home in the UK when their SA permits expire.
  • The UK was hit by a shortage of caregivers due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Caregivers 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 the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits expire in December, and they are forced to leave the country.

Percy Ncube has worked in the hotel and catering industry since he arrived in South Africa 15 years ago, but his hospitality skills can’t earn him a decent wage back home in Zimbabwe, where he would earn about R1 500 a month, and there’s no tipping culture there.

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

Unlike many who feel the Zimbabwean government should negotiate an extended stay for them in South Africa, he’s one of those who is looking to the UK for a lifeline.

“I just finished a nurse aide course. I’m now applying for job placements. I’m sure by January I will be in the UK. I have friends who have gone this route,” he said.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, demand for home caregivers in the UK has shot up. The State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report of 2021 states that some 105 000 caregiver vacancies are advertised daily.

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

According to recruitment hub Aim Global, the average caregiver salary in the UK is R442 000 a year (or R227 an hour) and an experienced caregiver can earn as much as R600 000 a year. Most white-collar jobs are barely in that salary range in South Africa.

For Ncube, the caregiver route will present him with a life-changing opportunity.

He said:

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


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

Caregiver jobs in the UK entail assisting individuals with difficulties in performing day-to-day activities. For example, the elderly, those living with disabilities, and chronic and mental disorders. Caregivers work in clients’ homes or special care facilities.

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