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National Labour Migration Policy released for public comment — here’s what you need to know

01 March 2022 - 11:00
Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi. File image
Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi. File image
Image: GCIS

Don’t have time to read? Listen to the summary below, provided by the writer.

Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi has released the National Labour Migration Policy (NLMP) for public comment and engagement, saying the initiative seeks to strike a balance among conflicting interests.

Nxesi said the proposed policy aims to address South Africans’ expectations regarding access to work opportunities given the rise in unemployment and a perception that foreign nationals are distorting labour market access.

It will introduce quotas on the total number of documented foreign nationals with work visas that can be employed in several sectors, including agriculture, hospitality and tourism, and construction.

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

The public has about 90 days to submit inputs to NLMP@labour.gov.za

Proposed new laws will protect the rights of migrants

Nxesi said the policy 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 small medium and micro enterprises and trading in some sectors of the economy.

Foreign nationals will include all people who aren’t citizens, permanent residents or refugees.

“The policy goes hand in hand with a proposed Employment Services Amendment Bill — providing 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,” said Nxesi. 

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 places the obligation on an employer engaging foreign workers to, among 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 country 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; and 
  • Retain copies of relevant documentation. 

Achieve a balance 

The proposed Amendment Bill lays out a framework that will enable the set quotas for the employment of foreign nationals. 

“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,” said Nxesi.

The NLMP aims to achieve a balance between the following:

  • The population’s expectations regarding accessibility to work for South Africans, given worsening unemployment and a perception that undocumented foreigners are distorting labour market access;
  • SA’s labour market needs, in particular, critical skills not locally available;
  • The protection of migrant workers and their families, in accordance with international standards and guidelines; and 
  • Regional integration and co-operation imperatives. 


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