SA to introduce new quotas limiting hiring of foreign nationals — here's what you need to know

21 June 2022 - 08:00
By Unathi Nkanjeni
Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi. File photo.
Image: GCIS Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi. File photo.

Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi says his department is finalising a policy to help regulate the extent to which foreign nationals can be employed in SA. 

Nxesi was responding to the blocking of roads by truck drivers on the N3 highway in KwaZulu-Natal after drivers complained about jobs being taken by both legal and illegal foreign workers.

The drivers complained that they were being overlooked by shipment companies in favour of foreign national drivers. 

Nxesi said the government was committed to addressing the issues in a way that ensured the long-term viability of interventions, some of which would require a “longer runway”, owing to legislative changes.

He said one of the key ways that government plans to address this is through the proposed National Labour Migration Policy (NLMP). 

The policy aims to achieve a balance across several areas, including:

  • Addressing South Africans’ expectations regarding access to work opportunities, given worsening unemployment and the perception that foreign nationals are distorting labour market access.
  • 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, and so on
  • 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 SMMEs and trading in some sectors of the economy.
  • The department of home affairs is also reviewing 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.

Nxesi said the department is reviewing major recommendations to determine whether they require regulatory changes.

“The department intends to complete synthesising the recommendations by the end of June this year, and then present a consolidated document at Nedlac for a formal consultation with social partners.”

Employment Services Amendment Bill

Nxesi said the NLMP goes hand-in-hand with a proposed Employment Services Amendment Bill, which provides 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.

He said the proposed amendments to the Employment Services Act aim to limit the extent to which employers can employ foreign nationals in possession of a valid work visa. 

The act will codify the obligations of an employer engaging foreign workers, including; 

  • 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 available 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.

“We will not tolerate lawlessness in the form of road blocking. We urge law enforcement to unleash the full force of the law on those who use illegal means to express their grievances while undermining the rights of others,” Nxesi said.