Government quotas for foreign workers in some sectors?
There is concern that employers prefer foreigners to locals in sectors such as restaurants and hospitality.
Foreign workers living in South Africa may be excluded from certain sectors of the economy under a new employment policy being developed by the Department of Employment and Labour.
This came to light during a discussion in Parliament on Thursday,7 May when Thobile Lamati, the director-general of the department, said these measures could apply in sectors where there was a preference for employing foreign workers.
Minister would determine sector and quota
“The minister would most probably determine that in this sector, only this percentage of foreign nationals will be allowed to work,” he said while addressing MPs during a virtual meeting of parliament’s two labour committees.
“This is not a new thing. It happens all over the world and is part of labour market employment policies,” Lamati noted.
“We are not sure if the target will increase or decrease but we think the employment policy will go a long way in addressing the number of challenges we have in the labour market.”
Some employers prefer to hire foreigners
Weighing into the discussion, the Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, said it was common to see non-South Africans working in the likes of hospitality, restaurants, agriculture and private security. These employers preferred to hire foreigners and in some instances it had to do with skills, but in others the intention was to exploit cheap labour.
“You can’t sit with millions of unemployed South Africans and in certain industries you just allow non-South Africans to be employed without any regulation,” Nxesi said. “We must introduce those quotas and stick to those quotas.” He added that it would be a balancing act.
But the minister emphasised that it was important not to be seen to be xenophobic or to be in violation of international conventions to which SA is a party.
Opposition labels the idea as nasty and mad
In a response, DA labour spokesperson Michael Cardo called the proposal “mad and dangerous”.
“It would be a nasty exercise in social engineering and whenever and wherever that has been tried throughout history it has had ugly consequences,” he said.