Despite having one of the highest unemployment rates in the world (34.9% in the third quarter of 2021), South Africa has a shortage of qualified, skilled workers in many fields. This strong demand enables foreign experts to find their place in the South African professional world, either on secondment to a company or as consultants.

Working under the wage portage system in South Africa

In industries affected by shortages of experienced workers, applications from highly qualified foreigners and professionals with rare skills are encouraged. However, foreign workers must obtain a work permit once they have signed an employment contract. A work permit restricts applicants to working only for the company that recruited them, for a maximum period of three years. However, the contract can be renewed. After five years of activity in South Africa, it is possible to obtain a permanent work permit.

Working conditions in South Africa

The law sets the legal working week at 45 hours, i.e. 8 to 9 hours a day depending on the number of working days (with or without Saturdays). Overtime is limited to 10 hours per week, with a maximum of 3 hours per day. Remuneration for this additional time is increased by 50%.

Full-time employees with one year’s seniority in the company are entitled to 21 consecutive days’ paid vacation per year, plus 12 national public holidays. Unused leave cannot be carried over to subsequent years. The legal retirement age is 60 for women and 65 for men.

The official professional language is English, but there are 11 other official languages.

How to find expatriate employment in South Africa

Because of the current restrictions on the employment of foreigners, the easiest way to work in South Africa is to be seconded by your company. But when this option is not available, for the self-employed, the Internet remains the best way to look for employment. There are many dedicated online platforms for browsing classified ads, as well as the digital versions of local newspapers such as The Star, News24, South Africa The Good News, The Citizen and The Sunday Times.

Local recruitment agencies also offer Skype interviews. Another option is to send unsolicited applications to the companies you are interested in working for, or rely on word-of-mouth referrals within the French community or associations. A three-month tourist stay can be an opportunity to research location, and if you reach an agreement with a company, you will need to take the necessary administrative steps when you return to your country of residence.

Industries and professions recruiting in South Africa

As one of the most industrialized countries on the continent, South Africa has several dynamic business sectors. The country is the world leader in mining and mineral processing, and is also home to other industries:

  • Agriculture;
  • Automotive;
  • Construction;
  • Trade;
  • Telecommunications;
  • Energy;
  • Finance and banking;
  • Legal services;
  • Transport and communications.

In 2021, the South African government drew up a list of the « critical skills » needed due to the shortage of applicants. These include:

  • Architects;
  • Chefs;
  • Financial controllers;
  • Accountants;
  • Electricians;
  • Higher education and scientific teachers;
  • Managers and secretaries;
  • Web designers.

People with the necessary qualifications and experience for these highly sought-after professions should seriously consider a career in South Africa.

Of course, to maximize your chances of landing a good job in this country, it is best to target the most populated and economically dynamic urban areas:

  • Johannesburg and Pretoria, respectively the economic and administrative capitals of the country,
  • Durban, the country’s largest port;
  • Le Cap, home to start-ups and high-tech companies.

Working as a ported employee in South Africa

As in many other countries on the continent, wage portage is on the rise in South Africa. However, players in the industry are finding it hard to recruit workers locally, because job seekers in Africa are very young (50% are under 25) and have few qualifications. As for African talent, they often prefer to work in the country where they completed their higher education.

The use of foreign expert consultants is therefore essential for the general development of the African economy, which is becoming increasingly diversified. Freelancers with a solid professional background have a good chance of landing a long-term assignment or expatriation with the many French and American companies operating in South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Ivory Coast or Senegal, as well as with the branches of multinational corporations.