The mining industry has always played a key role in attracting foreign investment. South Africa's infrastructure is also highly developed compared to other African states, and the country is seen as an entry point for the global African market.

South Africa's fiscal leeway has been limited by a decade of poor growth combined with the dispersion of and shortfalls in tax revenues, as well as increased debt and spending due to the public health crisis. Poorly managed guarantees for state-owned enterprises have also weighed on the state budget. As a result, public debt has risen sharply in recent years. 

Over the past decade, South Africa's economic growth has remained very weak. The country has failed to address long-standing structural issues such as inequality, poverty and unemployment, and the jobless rate today remains as high as ever (around 30% for several years). South Africa is aiming for an unemployment rate of 6% by 2030, an unrealistic target given the low growth the country has been experiencing for a number of years coupled with the ongoing impact of COVID-19. In the medium term, the country's economic situation is likely to be heavily influenced by the price of commodities. 

Employment law

Workers' rights are enshrined in the South African constitution. All labour laws uphold the same standards and rights for nationals as for foreign nationals employed in South Africa.

The South African Department of Employment and Labour has noted that some employers continue to mainly employ undocumented foreign nationals, whom they subject to lower labour standards. They are not declared on the employers' books nor are they covered by any form of social security, such as the government's pension fund or compensation fund. Such practices are illegal, indefensible, and pose a major problem for South Africa.

Sections 8 and 9 of the Employment Services Act 4 of 2014 contain specific provisions about the department's functions and its cooperation with the Department of Home Affairs in managing the employment of foreign nationals. The Act supplements the 2002 Immigration Act in that it prohibits employers from employing foreign nationals within the territory of the Republic of South Africa unless the foreign national in question produces an applicable and valid work permit issued by the Department of Home Affairs. Section 9 contains a list of prohibited acts in respect of foreign nationals, offences and fines.

Work permit

Because of the high jobless rate, the South African state promotes the employment of its own citizens before hiring foreign nationals. This means that the bureaucratic hurdles for taking up employment in South Africa are very high. In addition, there is no formal system for the recognition of qualifications.

A work visa will only be issued to a foreign national if no suitably qualified South African citizen is available for the job. Work visas for foreign nationals are issued for a specific length of time, depending on the type of visa that has been applied for. Applications can be made through the Visa Facilitation Service Centres (VSF) throughout the country or at the nearest South African embassy, mission or consulate abroad. 

The South African home affairs minister publishes a critical skills list in the government gazette at regular intervals. Critical skills work visas can be issued on the basis of this list. The critical skills list is developed together with the Department of Higher Education and Training, which also issues lists for occupations in high demand and scarce skills lists. The primary goal of the critical skills work visa system is to support the government in implementing the National Infrastructure Plan and Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) in support of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition.

Finding a job

As South Africa has a very high unemployment rate, the labour market for foreign nationals is practically non-existent. The Swiss–Southern African chamber of commerce (SwissCham Southern Africa) publishes job advertisements and 'job wanted' notices. 

Recognition of educational qualifications

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) is responsible for assessing foreign certificates and diplomas 

as well as classifying foreign qualifications in the NQF, which is one of its main tasks. In order to gain admission to higher studies, professional qualifications or employment, certain internal criteria and requirements of other institutions concerned must be met. 

The SAQA has a two-stage assessment procedure: 

  1. Verifying foreign qualifications by ensuring that the issuing bodies are either accredited or recognised in the national systems where they operate, and that they have issued the qualifications legally.

    The documents must be in order, and the recognitions declared by the persons concerned must be authentic. 

  2. Comparing foreign qualifications with their equivalents in South Africa, factoring in the structure and results of the foreign qualifications so they can be included in the NQF.

Self-employment and starting your own business

SwissCham Southern Africa provides guidance on becoming self-employed or setting up a company. Swiss citizens may also contact Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) or the Swiss–African Business Circle (SABC).

The SABC is the leading independent association working to promote business contacts and relations between Switzerland and Africa. Members benefit from an influential network and unique platform enabling them to exchange expertise, experience, projects and ideas. The SABC also fosters partnerships and opens up new economic horizons by supporting Africa as an important business location for Swiss companies.


Innovation and Partnerships

Consular Directorate CD
Effingerstrasse 27
3003 Bern


Helpline +41 800 24-7-365 / +41 58 465 33 33

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