New bill aims to limit the hiring of foreign workers in South Africa

The IFP’s Liezl Van der Merwe has announced plans to introduce a private member’s bill to parliament which will introduce further regulations around the hiring of foreign workers in South Africa.

The Employment Services Amendment Bill aims to address the high representation of foreign nationals employed in lower occupation levels, said Van der Merwe. She said that the number of foreign workers – particularly in the unskilled sector – is a critical concern.

“There should be deliberate attempts by the State to control the increasing preference by certain sectors in the workforce to employ foreign nationals over South African citizens, without justification on the basis of skills.

“Therefore, it is imperative to regulate the employment of foreign nationals in South Africa, in order to stem the narrative that the ratio of job opportunities between foreign nationals and South African citizens are skewed towards foreign nationals.”

Van der Merwe said that the draft bill aims to amend the current Employment Services Act, with the intention to regulate the recruitment of foreign nationals in certain economic sectors and to strengthen the current regulatory framework regarding the recruitment of foreign nationals in South Africa.

“The draft bill requires that when recruiting potential employees, an employer must confirm that there are no suitable South African citizens that can be employed in that position, prior to recruiting a foreign national,” she said.

“The bill further proposes that the Minister must publish a notice that provides for the identification of certain sectors in the workforce for the purpose of ensuring that suitable qualified South African citizens are equitably represented in those sectors and furthermore that the minister must set numerical targets for the identified economic sectors.”

Some of the other proposed changes include:

  • Setting out the measures that must be met prior to the employment of a foreign national within South Africa, instead of deferring such measures to regulations;
  • Allowing an employer to make use of public employment services or private employment agencies to assist the employer to recruit suitable South Africans;
  • Requiring that an employer must prepare a skills transfer plan in respect of any position in which a foreign national is employed;
  • Empowering the minister of Labour to, after consulting the Employment Service Board, make regulations to facilitate the employment of foreign nationals;
  • Requiring the Minister to publish a notice in the Government Gazette identifying sectors and setting numerical targets for those sectors, to ensure equitable representation.

National legislation 

The Department of Labour and Home Affairs is also currently involved in a process of developing legislation that will address employment of non-South Africans in all sectors of the economy, including road freight.

“We must, however, reiterate that we will not allow lawlessness to threaten our economy, more so as we emerge from the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We thus call on those who have grievances to work with us and not to shut down our roads, torch trucks or even resort to attacking truck drivers as has happened before,” he said.

In a July 2020 interview, Labour minister Thulas Nxesi said that the new legislation would not be limited to the road and freight sector but also apply to other industries which employ a high number of foreign workers.

These include:

  • The hospitality sector;
  • Restaurants;
  • Security;
  • Farming and agriculture.

“We are looking into this matter in a proper way. However, it is important to remember that we can’t just ‘do away with foreigners’. Some of them are refugees and legally supposed to be here,” he said.

“The issue that we have to deal with is the illegal people which have been employed without any papers from Home Affairs.”

Nxesi said that the country’s labour laws state that South Africans should be given preference, but he noted that some bodies were pushing for a complete ban on foreigners in the trucking sector.

Read: Gauteng’s plans to restrict jobs for foreign workers – what you need to know

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New bill aims to limit the hiring of foreign workers in South Africa