New rules planned for foreign workers in South Africa

The Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) has raised concerns around illegal recruitment practices in South Africa – including the hiring of immigrant foreign workers who are not in the country lawfully.

To address these and other issues, the department said it has developed a new National Labour Migration Policy and proposed amendments to the existing Employment Services Act.

In a statement on Tuesday (25 January), the department said that these proposals will be released for a three-month public comment process before the end of February/March 2022 once Cabinet approves the department’s submission.

Social partners at Nedlac will also be afforded the opportunity to adjust the Policy and the Bill during May/June before we make a submission to Parliament, it said.

The department said these proposals will focus on four specific areas which will introduce significant changes to the country’s labour market:


The department noted that the South African population has ‘expectations’ regarding access to work for local citizens, given worsening unemployment and perception or views that foreign nationals, especially undocumented, are distorting labour market access.

This practice is promoted by some employers who do not comply with existing labour legislation and continue to undermine existing minimum standards.

“The Employment and Labour National Labour Migration Policy will introduce maximum 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 just to name a few.”

Undesirable sectors

The National Labour Migration Policy will be complemented by small business intervention and the enforcement of a list of undesirable sectors where foreign nationals cannot be allocated business visas.

This will include amendments to the Small Business Act to limit foreign nationals establishing SMME and trading in some sectors of the economy.

Immigration changes

The Department of Home Affairs is currently reviewing the Immigration Act, the Citizenship Act and the Refugees Act to ensure more alignment.

“The Home Affairs, Border Management Authority is also getting into action to secure porous borders and to allow for the orderly movement of people and other nationals across ports of entry only,” the department said.

Critical skills list

The Department of Higher Education and Training has released scarce and critical skills in high demand to provide guidance to all institutions to prioritise education and training interventions in those areas.

“The list will be used as a last resort, to allow foreign nationals in possession of the listed skills that the economy requires, and where job offers have been made, to be allocated work visas.

“The government will also impose various obligations on both the employer and the foreign national to transfer skills to locals and permits will be limited to specific durations,” the department said.

Read: Minimum wage around the world in 2022 – including South Africa

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