South Africa needs 35,000 skilled foreign workers
published: Wednesday | May 9, 2007
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
SUN CITY, South Africa:
Rapid growth in its construction industry, positioned among the top five tourist destinations in the world, combined with a thriving mining/manufacturing sector, South Africa is now forced to look outside for skilled workers.
The country, which is still the primary producer of wheat worldwide, needs approximately 35,000 skilled foreign workers, mainly in the field of civil engineering, architecture, boiler makers, fitters and turners (workers who work with metal), mathematics and science teachers, doctors and nurses.
Last week, the country's Home Affairs Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, announced the availability of 34,825 quota work permits in 53 occupations where professionals are greatly needed.The accessibility of jobs comes at a time when a large number of hotels are under construction in order to accommodate the huge influx of tourists and while the country builds stadia for the FIFA World Cup 2010.
Historically, the country has had a problem with brain drain, which worsened immediately after apartheid ended in the early 1990s, when thousands of workers moved to places such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom.Some 20 per cent of these workers were reportedly black, the other 80 per cent white.The quota work permits allow foreign professionals with the needed qualification and experience to come to South Africa and look for work, without securing employment in advance as is usually the case.Under the new regulations, employers are now not required to show that there is no qualified South African available for the job before hiring a foreign national."Every effort has been made to simplify the process so that we can get as many skilled people into the economy as quickly as possible," Mapisa-Nqakula told the South African media.The permits are issued according to a yearly quota that identifies occupations where there is a lack of people withthe essential skills.Successful applicants under the quota system are required to find a job in their field of expertise within 90 days of being issued with permits to enter South Africa.The permits remain valid for as long as the permit holders are employed in their area of expertise, even if they change jobs.
The move has been welcomed by companies such as South Africa Immigration International (SAII), which facilitates immigration to the country. However, they have criticised the immigration department for what they termed as "flaws" in the system.Migration practitioner, Rod Maxwell of SAII told The Gleaner, that the immigration department is not equipped to handle the influx of foreigners. His comments were corroborated by the research organisation, the Centre for Development and Enterprise, which said that the responsibility for immigration should be taken from the Ministry of Home Affairs.