HILARY JOFFE: Red tape for work visas hobbles growth and fuels inequality

23 February 2020 - 05:05 By

It took Nampak 18 months to obtain a work visa for the chief bottle-maker it urgently needed for its glass business - a business it has now sold to an international player, in part because it couldn't access the specialised skills needed to make it work. Chief bottle-makers are apparently very rare globally, but are essential if you're producing glass bottles. And while Nampak's story is just one random work-visa woe, it goes to the heart of SA's scarce-skills crisis and its implications for growth, investment and inequality.

The government certainly claims it wants to address the crisis, in part by making it easier for companies to import scarce skills. President Cyril Ramaphosa has said more than once that his administration is prioritising immigration reform to attract skilled foreigners. The Treasury's economic growth document calls for the visa regime to be eased to allow in anyone with a tertiary qualification from an accredited institution. But there was no mention of visa reform in Ramaphosa's state of the nation address last week. And while the government has taken steps to make tourist visas easier to get, there has been little or no progress on work visas...

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