What is the change? The National Executive Committee of South Africa’s governing political party, the African National Congress, has said it wants the government to impose quotas on the numbers of foreign nationals who can work in the country’s various economic sectors.

What does the change mean? If the ANC’s proposal is implemented, it would curb the abilities of South African companies to recruit foreign workers. Few details have been released on how strict the ANC’s quotas would be, but the proposal comes as South Africa is already bracing for a major overhaul of its immigration system.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Work permits.
  • Who is affected: The change would affect employers and foreign nationals seeking work authorization in South Africa.
  • Business impact: If the proposal is implemented, businesses would be restricted in the number of foreign nationals they could employ.
  • Next steps: The ANC must formally adopt the National Executive Committee’s idea for a quota system and secure the support of Parliament before it can become law.

Background: Following a meeting of the committee last weekend, Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe confirmed that consensus had been reached on a proposal to impose foreign national employee ratios on companies in different economic sectors. The ANC’s proposal came just as the government published a White Paper that provides a framework for comprehensive overhaul of the country’s immigration system. Some changes in the White Paper will be implemented immediately, while others will be included in legislation to be submitted to Parliament by March 2019. It’s clear, however, that the ruling political party is keen to ensure that foreign workers are not taking jobs that can be filled by South Africans and wants to be seen as tough on immigration in the run up to the next general election, in two years. The White Paper also calls for a points-based system for awarding work permits that would take into account, among other factors, a company’s willingness to transfer skills to South Africans.

BAL Analysis: Companies are already anticipating significant changes to South Africa’s immigration system, and the introduction of an industry sector-based quota system would add a new challenge to employers requiring foreign workers to fill key positions. How strict the quotas would be, and how they would affect different economic sectors, is not yet clear.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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