The South African government says it intends to make 2 million jobs available for South Africans before 2024 by removing foreign nationals.
Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi said that the government is working on legislation that prioritises the employment of locals over immigrant workers.
About 12 million South Africans are unemployed and the government wants to reduce the number before the 2024 elections.
Nxesi’s jobs target adds up to the amount of people who were rendered unemployed at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Strict labour laws, stagnant productivity, bureaucratic hurdles and a skills shortage have reduced the ability of South African companies to hire additional workers.
“Whether or not that is achievable, I don’t know,” Nxesi said of his goal in an interview in Bloomberg’s office in Johannesburg. The government is working on policy amendments to prioritise South Africans’ access to jobs over foreign nationals with the same skills, he said.
The high unemployment rate has added to anti-immigrant sentiment among some South Africans, so rife in the trucking industry, as locals feel immigrants are taking their jobs.
ATDF-ASA has been at the forefront of campaigns to have foreign truck drivers removed from their jobs and be replaced by locals. Nxesi recently concurred with the group saying truck driving was not a critical skill.
That’s prompted the government to follow through on proposals to enforce employment quotas for foreign nationals.
The government introduced the National Labour Migration Policy (NLMP) which covers the management of labour migration into South Africa among other purposes.
There’s been a trend of “employment of foreign workers at the expense of the South African workers,” Nxesi said. “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.
To limit the influx of illegal migrants from neighbouring nations, South Africa wants to establish a border control agency. The Border Management Authority will have branches at six border posts to begin with, and employ people from various government departments to tighten the implementation of immigration policies.
Last year, the government decided to cease the ZEP permits first issued to them over 12 years ago.
About 178 000 Zimbabweans under the ZEP permits are expected to apply for other permits to regularise their stay in the country, failure of which they would have to return to their country.
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