Foreign nationals employment

Image via Twitter: Department of Employment and Labour

Foreign nationals ‘hired preferentially’ for entry level jobs – CEE

A report released by the CEE said that the hiring of foreign nationals may adversely affect their South African counterparts.

Foreign nationals employment

Image via Twitter: Department of Employment and Labour

The Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) has released its annual employment figures for the 2019/20 year, and among their findings is the revelation that foreign nationals are being preferentially hired for entry-level jobs at an increasing rate. 

Workers originating from outside of South Africa are filling job vacancies ahead of their South African counterparts more and more, the report revealed, and the commission said this has been among the challenges it has faced in terms of achieving the goals it set out in 2015 to ensure employment equity in the country. 

Employment of foreign nationals on the up

CEE Chairperson Tabea Kabinde said that the increase in foreign nationals at entry level (including semi-skilled and unskilled Levels) jobs may mean that unemployed South Africans are being adversely affected by the trend. 

“Whilst South Africa has stringent legislation governing the appointment of Foreign Nationals, the increase in the appointment of Foreign Nationals at entry occupational levels, i.e. is noteworthy,” she said. 

“It is argued that the unemployed in South Africa might be deprived of employment opportunities as a result of a trend towards the appointment of Foreign Nationals at these occupational levels.” 

The report handed down by the CEE cited another by the B-BBEE Commission National Status Report on Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment for 2018, which shows that white people and foreign nationals account for 62% in 2018 for management control positions, demonstrating not only a 6% increase in their role in the sector of employment, but also how the large majority of other racial groups are being turned down for such positions. 

“In line with the working visa policies, it is expected that the Foreign Nationals represented at this level, are employees with scarce skills,” said Kabinde.

“However, their representation remained constant, which suggests that there may not be skills transfer at this level. 

Foreign nationals maintain high rate of entry level job employment  

The report outlined the following increases in foreign national presence in the job market at various levels: 

Top management: 

“The representation of Foreign Nationals remains constant at 3% at this level,” the report suggests, noting an overwhelming majority of white people making up the market here.


The Private sector employs the most Foreign Nationals followed by Educational institutions at this level. 

The representation of Foreign Nationals at this level remains constant at around 2%, which is relatively high considering that this level is an entry level for semi-skilled workers in a country with a high rate of unemployment. 


The report indicates a relatively high representation of immigrants at this occupational level between 2017 and 2019, considering the reported availability levels of unskilled South African workers. Foreign nationals made up 3.9% of unskilled labourers in 2019. 

“At this level, White and Indian population groups are under-represented whereas a relatively high percentage increase in the representation of Foreign Nationals at this level is noted between 2017 ( (3.5%) to 2019 (3.9%) considering the reported availability levels of Unskilled workers,” the report noted.

Plans for employment recovery won’t ‘do away with foreigners’

Last month, Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Boitumelo Moloi said that a new “National Employment Policy” will include new regulations around labour migration as the country seeks to ensure job recovery post-COVID-19

“We are looking into this matter in a proper way. However, it is important to remember that we can’t just ‘do away with foreigners’. Some of them are refugees and legally supposed to be here,” he said.

“The issue that we have to deal with is the illegal people which have been employed without any papers from Home Affairs.”