Finding a job and working in South Africa

Work in South Africa
Updated 2022-11-06 12:40

Anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of South Africa and wishes to work in South Africa must obtain a work permit based on a job offer. The work permit is issued for the duration of the contract and is applied for at the South African embassy or consulate in the country of residence.

Types of work permits in South Africa

There are three types of work permits in South Africa:

  • The General Work Permit for which the prospective employer must prove that they have advertised a job in the local market and have not found anyone with the required qualifications and experience in the local market to fill the position.
  • The Essential Skills work permit for which the prospective employer will not have to prove that he has not found anyone in the local market because this permit is for highly qualified people with skills that South Africa needs.
  • The intra-company permit is relatively easy to obtain as it is a transfer from an overseas company to its South African subsidiary.

There is also the possibility of starting one's own business, but this requires a well-defined project and capital. Starting a business in South Africa is strongly encouraged as it provides job opportunities for unemployed South Africans.

In 2021, more than 30% of South Africans were unemployed, and one out of two young people is unemployed. In addition, the health crisis and some of the strictest confinements in the world have severely impacted the South African labor market. With such a high unemployment rate, the authorities are particularly strict when it comes to granting a work permit to a foreigner.

How easy is it to find a job as an expat in South Africa?

The South African government has implemented a policy of positive discrimination in order to reduce unemployment and to promote the integration of the black population, for whom jobs with low or medium qualifications are primarily reserved. This is why it is difficult to find a job that meets the criteria of the general work permit. In addition, companies do not really get involved in these permit applications because the process can be long and tedious. Most of the job offers in South Africa available stipulate that you must already have one.

If your education and work experience do not meet the criteria for a Critical Skills license, it will be difficult to find a position, but it is not impossible. The best thing to do in this case is to start the search from your home country, travel to South Africa to prospect and interview, and then leave with a job offer and apply for a general work permit at the South African embassy.

It is much easier to find a job that fits the Essential Skills Work Permit criteria as, over the past 20 years, many highly skilled South Africans and graduates have chosen to move abroad, creating a shortage of jobs in many sectors, and the demand for highly skilled foreigners is constant. The government's list of Essential Skills occupations includes over 35,000 positions in 53 different categories.

The sectors where there are skill shortages and which recruit the most expatriates are the film industry, information technology, computer science, tourism and hospitality, engineering, languages and sustainable development.

The service sector is a growing sector and employs about 70% of the working population. The main activities are finance, real estate, business services and tourism.

Several major global car manufacturers are also present in the country: Toyota, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, General Motors, etc.

Which South African cities recruit the most expatriates?

The country's economy is strongly localized in a few large regions: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Port Elizabeth.

If you wish to work in Cape Town, the most dynamic and recruiting sectors are call centers, computer engineering, the film industry, tourism and the hotel industry. Despite a difficult economic context due to the pandemic, tourism and the hotel industry are experiencing a revival of activity. The film and audiovisual industry is also booming, but employment opportunities in this sector are variable.

Mining resources, with the production of platinum, chromium, manganese, gold and diamonds, play a major role in the economy of Johannesburg and the country.

South Africa is the world's largest producer and exporter of gold, platinum, chrome and manganese.

For those interested in working in Pretoria, the automotive industry with Nissan and Ford plants offers job opportunities.

Jobs in Durban are mainly in industry, tourism and the entire service sector. The port of Durban, the busiest in Africa, is a major axis of international trade.

Port Elizabeth is the fourth largest industrial area in South Africa. It is the cradle of the automotive industry and is home to most of the vehicle assembly plants. It is also a major seaport. Located at the end of the Garden Route, Port Elizabeth also has job opportunities in tourism.

Finding a job in South Africa

There are many recruitment agencies, some of which are specialized in certain sectors, but companies do not necessarily turn to them and publish their job offers in local and national newspapers that can be consulted online: News24, Sunday Times, The Citizen, The Times South Africa, Mail & Guardian, etc.

And, of course, there is the Internet, which is an essential tool for job searches in South Africa as anywhere else in the world.

Some of the most popular job websites are Career Junction, PNet, Indeed, etc. Some are specialized in certain sectors:

You can also consult the companies' websites and send them unsolicited applications. For the French and French-speaking candidates, for example, there are more than 400 subsidiaries of French companies established in South Africa, which employ more than 65,000 people, with various activities such as electrical equipment (Schneider Electric, Socomec, etc.), distribution (Leroy Merlin, Decathlon, etc.), transport and logistics (CMA-CGM, Alstom, etc.), hotels (Accor), agri-food (Danone), environment (Veolia), and media and communication (Vivendi), among others.

Working conditions in South Africa

Before deciding to move to South Africa for work, it is important to consider the working conditions, salary and social protection, which are totally different from those you might have enjoyed, and of course, to speak English fluently.

The minimum wage was increased in March 2022 and is now 23.19 Rands per hour, and the average gross monthly salary is 22800 Rands. The monthly salary for a secretary is around R5000 and R8000 for a bilingual secretary, with executive salaries starting at R9000 per month. Employers prefer to limit salaries because of South African taxation but use a system of bonuses (transportation, housing, insurance) paid directly to employees as compensation.

The work week is forty-five hours, with a maximum of ten hours of overtime per week. Paid vacations are 21 consecutive days per year per full year worked.

The employer is not required to purchase health insurance and is not required to pay for maternity leave, which is four months. If the employee works full time (more than twenty-four hours per week) and contributes to the UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund), this gives them rights in case of illness or loss of employment, but these are minimal. Expatriates in South Africa are strongly advised to take out health insurance. Find out more about health insurance in the article "Health insurance in South Africa".

Finding a job in South Africa is not impossible, but you must be courageous, rigorous and organized, determined, and above all, persevering because the Home Affairs administration can be fussy, precise and sometimes discouraging.

For better chances of being hired in South Africa, newcomers or applicants can approach institutions like the Chamber of Commerce or expatriate associations present in the major cities to welcome and guide new expatriates.

Useful links:

Best Jobs

Career Junction

Job Mail

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