Plan to bar foreigners from working in certain sectors

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published Dec 13, 2020

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Johannesburg - Foreign nationals could be barred from working in some unskilled and semi-skilled jobs in certain sectors of the South African economy in favour of locals if a lawmaker has her way.

IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe will table new legislation that proposes, among others, that employers may not employ a foreign national in the country without an applicable and valid work visa and ensuring that the numerical target prescribed by Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has been reached.

According to the IFP’s proposed Employment Services Amendment Bill employers may only hire foreign nationals after satisfying themselves that there is no other person in South Africa with suitable skills to fill that vacancy.

”An employer may make use of public employment services or private employment agencies to assist the employer to recruit a suitable employee who is a South African citizen or permanent resident and must prepare a skills transfer plan in respect of any position in which a foreign national is employed,” states the bill.

According to the IFP, the high rate of unemployed South Africans and the high representation of foreign nationals employed in lower occupation levels, particularly in the unskilled sector, is a critical concern.

”With due regard to the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 (Act No. 4 of 2000), there should be deliberate attempts by the state to control the increasing preference by certain sectors in the workforce to employ foreign nationals over South African citizens, without justification on the basis of skills,” the country’s fourth-largest party explained its reasons for introducing the legislation.

The IFP also states that there is perception by South African citizens that foreign nationals are “taking their jobs”, which it believes exacerbates xenophobia.

”Therefore, it is imperative to regulate the employment of foreign nationals in the Republic, in order to stem the narrative that the ratio of job opportunities between foreign nationals and South African citizens are skewed towards foreign nationals,” said the IFP.

The party’s chief whip in the National Assembly, Narend Singh, and its treasurer-general, told Independent Media that the decision to table the bill was taken by its caucus at a workshop earlier this year, following interaction with its constituency and the general public in December, last year.

Narend said, the IFP wanted to find a mechanism to regulate the employment of foreign nationals in semi-skilled or unskilled jobsm, such as, drivers and waiters, occupations which do not require any special set of skills.

”Employers want to pay poor rates to foreign nationals,” said Singh.

He said regulating employment would ensure that South Africa does not continue in this current pattern characterised by increasing levels of already high unemployment.

”We are not saying don’t employ foreign nationals but South Africans must get priority,” Singh stated, adding that this would apply only in certain economic sectors.

The IFP will approach all sectors, unions and other political parties from next month for their views on the proposed amendments, according to Singh.

He said the legislation would also help prevent the abuse of cheap labour.

Singh also accused the government of not doing enough to develop skills of unemployed South Africans.

He cited the example of the hospitality industry, in which, he said, 90% of waiters in the restaurants are not South Africans.

”It’s not xenophobic,” he insisted. He said Ghana and some European countries also have similar restrictions.

The IFP’s proposed legislative amendments come as the Gauteng provincial government steams ahead with its plans to bar foreign nationals from operating businesses in certain sectors in the richest province’s townships.

Legal opinion obtained by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA has indicated that the Draft Gauteng Township Economic Development Bill may be unconstitutional, an unjustifiable infringement of a number of rights and might fuel xenophobia.

Political Bureau

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