South Africa vs New Zealand – A guide for Engineers

migrant engineers, new zealand, skilled migrants, skilledmigrants, South Africa, visas,


If you are a South African Civil Engineer moving to New Zealand, our guide will give you an excellent overview of the similarities and differences between the two countries.

As a civil engineer, the prospect of relocating to a new country can be both exciting and daunting. If you’re considering a move from South Africa to New Zealand, you’re likely weighing a variety of factors including job prospects, cost of living, and quality of life.

New Zealand has much to offer in terms of career opportunities, natural beauty, and a laid-back lifestyle. However, before making the move, it’s important to have a good understanding of what to expect and what you need to do to ensure a smooth transition. In this article, we’ll explore some key considerations for civil engineers considering a move from South Africa to New Zealand.


According to the Global Peace Index (2022), New Zealand is the world’s second safest country out of 162 other countries. The ranking is measured by the level of societal safety and security, the extent of ongoing domestic and international conflict, and the degree of militarisation.

The luxury of feeling safe is one of the essential aspects that New Zealand can offer families moving from South Africa. According to the Global Peace Index (2022), South Africa is ranked 118th out of 162 countries for being the safest. 

Though no country is entirely immune to security threats, crime, and violence, New Zealand has low crime rates due to effective law enforcement and robust social welfare policies. As crime may be a concern in South Africa, New Zealand is generally a safe and welcoming destination for all individuals. New Zealand will provide South Africans coming to New Zealand with a sense of security in their daily lives.

Freedom/Political and Economic Stability 

New Zealand’s political system is stable and ensures all government and public perspectives are considered. After Denmark, New Zealand is ranked the world’s second least corrupt country out of 180 (Corruption Perceptions Index, 2022).

According to the Corruptions Perceptions Index (2022), South Africa is ranked 72 out of 180 countries. This means South Africa is highly corrupt which negatively impacts economic stability and the quality of life for South Africans.


New Zealand and South Africa experience similar weather patterns with only a few differences. New Zealand has a temperate climate, meaning relatively mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers. This is influenced by how close the country lies to the coast and the oceans that surround the land. In contrast, South Africa has a climate patchwork of warm coast subtropics, humid highlands, snow-topped mountains, and Mediterranean-like weather.

The North Island of New Zealand has a sub-tropical temperature which is most like South Africa. Due to South Africa’s proximity to the equator, temperatures are generally warmer throughout the year. However, the average temperature in New Zealand decreases the more you travel south. Rainfall is also more common in the South Island of New Zealand. Whereas in many northern and western regions of South Africa, there are low levels of rainfall.

Despite the minor differences in climate between the two countries, South Africans tend to find it easy to adapt to New Zealand’s weather. 


As New Zealand is a relatively affluent country, there is a stronger focus on environmental protection and sustainability than in South Africa. While South Africa, a developing country, struggles with inadequate waste management, litter and pollution, New Zealand has well-maintained public spaces and recycling infrastructure in place. 

Many South Africans who move to New Zealand praise and emphasize the cleanliness of public surroundings such as streets, parks, and shopping centers compared to their home country. With a small population of 5,151,600 people living in New Zealand, it is also easier to implement and enforce environmental regulations.




Though the housing market is considerably cheaper across South Africa, it is the 39th highest quality for housing out of 41 countries (OECD, 2022). This is reflected in the current situation of load shedding and reductions in water usage in South Africa. Residents living in South Africa experience power outages for several hours daily.

According to the OECD Better Life Index (2022), New Zealand’s housing is ranked the third highest quality in the World. Though the national median rent and average price for a house are more expensive, numerous property types are available to suit your needs. Most importantly, there is full access to electricity and water.

Read more about Renting a property in New Zealand

Cost of Living 

The cost of living in South Africa and New Zealand can vary significantly depending on various factors such as the city, lifestyle, and spending habits. However, there are some general comparisons that can be made between the two countries.

Despite South Africa’s low cost of living, New Zealand offers much higher standards in healthcare, education systems, housing, and environment, making it a safe and attractive destination.

Housing is one of the biggest expenses for most people, and this is where the cost of living in New Zealand is notably higher than in South Africa. The average cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a city center in New Zealand can be more than double the cost of a similar apartment in South Africa. This is partly due to a shortage of housing in New Zealand, particularly in popular urban areas.

Another major expense is food. In New Zealand, the cost of groceries tends to be higher than in South Africa, partly due to the cost of importing food products. However, New Zealand is known for its high-quality produce, which can be worth the extra cost for some.

Transportation costs are also higher in New Zealand than in South Africa. Gas prices are generally higher, and public transportation can be more expensive. However, New Zealand is known for its efficient public transportation systems, particularly in major cities. A one-way bus or train ticket in Auckland can cost around NZD 4 (about ZAR 42), while a similar ticket in Johannesburg would cost around ZAR 16.

In terms of healthcare, both South Africa and New Zealand have public healthcare systems, but the quality and accessibility of healthcare can vary significantly. New Zealand’s public healthcare system is generally considered to be of a higher standard than South Africa’s, but private healthcare in New Zealand can be more expensive. For example, a consultation with a general practitioner in New Zealand costs around NZD 60-80 (about ZAR 630-840), while a similar health consultation in South Africa costs around ZAR 400-600.

It is important to remember that New Zealand has a higher average income than South Africa which partly offsets higher living costs. 

Read more about the cost of living in New Zealand here


South Africa is known for its beautiful beaches, rugged mountain ranges, and vast wildlife reserves. Popular outdoor activities in South Africa include surfing, hiking, camping, wildlife safaris, and adventure sports such as bungee jumping and shark cage diving. The country also has a rich cultural heritage, with many historic sites and traditional villages to explore.

New Zealand, on the other hand, is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, including glaciers, lakes, and fjords. Outdoor activities in New Zealand include hiking, skiing, snowboarding, mountaineering, kayaking, and bungee jumping. The country is also home to many adrenaline-fueled activities such as skydiving, jet boating, and ziplining.

New Zealand has a thriving winter sports industry, with numerous ski resorts in the North and South Islands. In comparison, South Africa does not offer a big skiing industry due to its location in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Some of the most popular ski resorts in New Zealand include Coronet Peak and The Remarkables near Queenstown, Mount Hutt near Christchurch, and Whakapapa and Turoa on the North Island’s Mount Ruapehu. These resorts offer a range of terrain for all skill levels, as well as amenities such as ski schools, rental equipment, and accommodation options.



Though education costs in South Africa are cheaper, the education system’s quality is why many South Africans bring their kids to New Zealand. 

According to OECD (2017), New Zealand is ranked in the world’s top 20 nations for the quality of schools and childcare facilities. They have qualified teachers and a solid curriculum to enhance learning suited for primary, secondary, and tertiary education. 

As both countries have private and public schools, South Africa still faces significant challenges over recent years. Challenges involve educational inequality, declining university standards, inadequate funding and a shortage of qualified teaching staff. 

If you are considering moving to New Zealand, click here for a detailed description of New Zealand’s education system. 


According to the World Index of Healthcare Innovation (2021), New Zealand is ranked 15th highest quality in healthcare. Both countries have a public healthcare system, providing primary medical care to all citizens and permanent residents funded by the governments. However, South Africa’s public system is often overburdened and understaffed, leading to long waiting times and substandard care. 

Both countries also have private health insurance, which is not compulsory. The private healthcare system in South Africa has high standards, with access to qualified medical professionals and facilities. However, this system is expensive and only accessible to a small percentage of the population. In New Zealand, citizens and residents choose to take out a policy to access higher-quality care or to avoid long waiting lists for surgeries.

Read more about New Zealand’s healthcare

Work/life balance

New Zealand is known for its excellent work-life balance, which is a key factor in attracting people to work and live in the country. Compared to many other countries around the world, New Zealand offers a unique balance of career opportunities and a relaxed, outdoor lifestyle.

In New Zealand, the typical workweek is 40 hours, with standard work hours from 8 am to 5 pm. However, there is also a strong culture of work flexibility, with many companies offering flexible working arrangements to allow employees to balance work and personal commitments. This may include working from home, flexible hours, or job-sharing arrangements.

New Zealand also has a generous annual leave entitlement, with most employees entitled to four weeks of paid annual leave per year. Additionally, there are public holidays throughout the year, which allow for long weekends and time off work to spend with family and friends.

The work culture in New Zealand is generally considered to be more relaxed and less hierarchical than in many other countries. Employees are encouraged to contribute ideas and take initiative, and there is a focus on work-life balance and employee wellbeing.

According to HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey data (2021), New Zealand was ranked second for lifestyle and the third best place for migrants to live and work. People in New Zealand have an outstanding work-life balance as they prioritize taking time off to pursue their interests and spend time with loved ones.

In comparison, South Africa has a relatively high unemployment rate, which can lead to a more competitive work environment and longer work hours. According to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the average South African works 43.3 hours per week, which is higher than the average of many developed countries. The standard workweek in South Africa is typically 45 hours, with many employees working overtime to meet deadlines or make up for staff shortages.

Additionally, the number of paid annual leave days in South Africa is relatively low compared to other countries, with most employees entitled to 15 days of paid leave per year. However, many employers offer additional benefits such as sick leave, family responsibility leave, and maternity/paternity leave.


Job Opportunities 

New Zealand’s job market has been strong over recent years, driven by solid economic performances. The country’s GDP is expected to reach 2% in 2023, whereas South Africa’s GDP growth is predicted to be 1.3% in 2023 (OECD, 2022).

Numerous job openings will grow for almost all professions, adding great career opportunities for migrants coming to New Zealand. Up to 47,000 workers will be required every year, and South Africans working in construction, business, healthcare, education, and social assistance are in exceptionally high demand. 

South African Engineers in high demand in Australia and New Zealand

View the Green List here to see what roles are in demand in New Zealand.

Primary research states that parents living in South Africa see no future for their children due to inequality and limited employment opportunities. According to Trading Economics (2023), South Africa’s unemployment rate was 32.7% in the fourth quarter of 2022. With numerous job openings for almost every profession in New Zealand, South Africans are using this chance to come with their families to start a new life in a less corrupt and safe country.

Demand for Engineers

Civil engineering is a critical field in both South Africa and New Zealand due to its growing infrastructure and construction industries. However, there are some notable differences in the demand for civil engineers in these two countries.

Firstly, South Africa has a significant backlog of infrastructure needs, which means that there is a large pipeline of projects that need to be completed. This may lead to a higher demand for civil engineers in the short term, but there is some uncertainty around the long-term sustainability of this demand.

As the construction industry is the fifth largest sector in New Zealand, employers are desperately looking for employees with a background in engineering and construction to help deliver significant infrastructure projects across the country.

New Zealand has a substantial infrastructure, technology, and renewable energy investment within the industry. The demand for civil engineers is driven by ongoing population growth and investment in infrastructure projects. This makes New Zealand an attractive destination for engineer migrants seeking a high quality of life and better career prospects.

If you plan on coming to New Zealand, the country offers various types of visas available for you. Work visas let you live and work here for a period and may lead to residency in New Zealand. Resident visas such as the Skilled Migrant category will let you stay indefinitely and access more publicly funded services. Click on the link here to see the different visas New Zealand offers. 

Employment prospects for South African Engineers in New Zealand

The employment prospects for South African civil engineers in New Zealand can vary depending on several factors, including the level of experience, qualifications, and the demand for civil engineering professionals in the specific location.

If you are a South African engineer considering a move to New Zealand, here are some tips to help increase your chances of finding employment:

  • Research the job market: Look into the specific industries and areas of engineering that are in demand in New Zealand, and consider tailoring your job search to these areas.
  • Network with other professionals: Building connections and networking with other engineers and industry professionals can help you to learn about job opportunities and make valuable connections.
  • Seek out professional advice: Consider seeking advice from an immigration lawyer or migration agent who can provide guidance on the visa application process and help you navigate any challenges that may arise.
  • Consider upskilling: If your qualifications are not recognized in New Zealand, consider undertaking further study or certification to meet New Zealand standards and improve your job prospects.

And most importantly, get in touch with us! We have years of experience placing Civil Engineers and Construction Professionals from SA with our clients on a variety of projects across New Zealand. Email your CV to [email protected] or connect with our Recruiters on LinkedIn.

View the comprehensive guide here for more information and advice to help make your move to New Zealand smoother.

^ Back to top