[South Africa] Work permit overhaul may push out expats

A move to restrict the number of critical skills eligible for expat work permits is imminent and foreign workers fear the restriction may force them out of the country, International Investment reports.

The revised critical skills list is expected to be published very soon. An unofficial draft list - marked “draft confidential” - had been shared between foreign workers, according to reporting by International Investment, and a copy was obtained. Based on its contents, if the draft is a fair representation, the changes will significantly impact companies operating in skills shortage areas.

Bonang Mohale - Chief Executive of Business Leadership SA, an association dealing with government and labour - reportedly assessed the draft as "much shorter and restrictive" as it eliminates some sectors like architecture and reduces others like life and earth sciences. Mr Mohale said, "South Africa suffers from a gross skills shortage, so all of these reductions are not helpful."

It has been noted by concerned professionals that the draft will eliminate some key skills South Africa lacks, including corporate general managers and artificial intelligence engineers. Immigration lawyer Stefanie de Saude-Darbandi, in conversation with Reuters, said, "This is the first time we will have a revised critical skills list since 2014 and we don't know how they came up with this list and who they consulted with."

An increasingly strong wave of economic nationalism - against the hiring of non-South Africans - is suspected by some expat workers to be at the root of the changes.

An official list for publication is being finalised over talks between the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Labour. Once signed by the minister, the revised critical skills list will come into immediate effect.


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