The South African government says it intends to make 2 million jobs available for South Africans before 2024 by removing foreign nationals.
South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. According to Statistics South Africa, the government agency entrusted with producing official stats for the country, 7.9 million citizens are unemployed. That’s an unemployment rate of 34.5 percent in the first quarter of 2022.
The high unemployment rate helps contribute to increasing anti-immigrant sentiment among some South Africans who resent facing additional competition for jobs. The government is now attempting to follow through on proposals to enforce employment quotas for foreign nationals.
There’s been a trend of “employment of foreign workers at the expense of the South African workers,” South African Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi said to Bloomberg in an interview. “The issue is the employers who deliberately employ these vulnerable people.”
Reducing undocumented immigrants will be vital in addressing unemployment, according to Nxesi.
“It’s a very sensitive matter everywhere, but if you look in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Nigeria and Ghana — they have all declared that you can’t bring anyone from outside if there is a national who is able to perform that job,” he said.
But Nxesi readily admits he isn’t sure whether his goal of creating 2 million jobs in less than two years is achievable. He says the government is working on policy amendments to prioritise South Africans’ access to jobs over foreign nationals with the same skills.
South Africa is also considering establishing a border control agency to help limit the influx of illegal immigrants from neighboring countries. The proposed agency would also tighten the implementation of immigration policies.
Unemployment is likely to be a key issue in the run-up to the elections in 2024. The state has to find a solution to limit the large number of labor migrants coming from struggling neighbouring countries, the minister said.
STATS SA says about 3 million of the 60 million people living in South Africa are migrants.
Story compiled with assistance from Bloomberg Africa