South Africa announces ‘quota system’ for foreigners – what you should know

 ·28 Feb 2022

For the first time in the history of South Africa, the government has formulated a comprehensive National Labour Migration Policy (NLMP), says Employment and Labour minister Thulas Nxesi.

In a media briefing on Monday (28 February), Nxesi said the policy has been researched extensively and benchmarked internationally for best practice.

“It has become increasingly apparent, with the rapid expansion of international migration flows that South Africa needs to develop appropriate policy effectively to manage this,” the minister said.

“South Africa is not immune to international migration trends as well as attempts to exploit this for political gain. Our response is to develop an effective NLMP.”

Nxesi said the proposed National Labour Migration Policy aims to achieve a balance across four areas:

  • Jobs: The first is to address South Africans’ expectations regarding access to work opportunities, given worsening unemployment and the perception that foreign nationals are distorting labour market access, said Nxesi. “The NLMP, together with proposed legislation, will introduce quotas on the total number of documented foreign nationals with work visas that can be employed in major economic sectors such as Agriculture, Hospitality and Tourism, Construction etc.”
  • Small business: The NLMP will be complemented by Small Business intervention and enforcement of a list of sectors where foreign nationals cannot be allocated business visas and amendments to the Small Business Act to limit foreign nationals establishing SMMEs and trading in some sectors of the economy.
  • Borders: The Department of Home Affairs is also reviewing current legislation and strengthening the Border Management Authority to secure porous borders and to allow for the orderly movement of people and other nationals through ports of entry only.
  • Inspections: Nxesi said his department, together with all relevant authorities, will step up inspections to enforce existing labour and immigration legislation.

New laws proposed

The National Labour Migration Policy goes hand in hand with a proposed Employment Services Amendment Bill.

This will provide a policy framework and the legal basis to regulate the extent to which employers can employ foreign nationals in their establishments while protecting the rights of migrants, Nxesi said.

The proposed amendments to the Employment Services Act aims to limit the extent to which employers can employ the number of foreign nationals in possession of a valid work visa in their employment and codifies the obligations of an employer engaging foreign workers to amongst others:

  • Only employ foreign nationals entitled to work in terms of the Immigration Act, the Refugees Act or any other provision;
  • Ascertain the foreign national is entitled to work in the Republic in the relevant position;
  • Satisfy themselves that there are no South Africans with the requisite skills to fill the vacancy;
  • Prepare a skills transfer plan, where appropriate;
  • Employ foreign nationals on the same terms as local workers;
  • Retain copies of relevant documentation.

“The proposed Amendment Bill proposes a framework that will enable the Minister to set quotas for employment of foreign nationals,” Nxesi said.

“A quota may apply in respect of a sector of the economy, an occupational category or a geographical area. The Minister will establish a quota in a sector after consultation with the Employment Services Board and after considering public comments.”

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