Work in South Africa: Finding a job
A guide for job-hunters in South Africa, including information on the current job market, South African work permits, and where to look for jobs in South Africa.
If you are planning to live and work in South Africa, you will generally need to have a job offer before you can enter the country. However, if you are a professional working within certain shortage occupations, have formal qualifications and have five years of work-related experience, you may qualify to come to South Africa for one year to find a job. Although there is high unemployment in South Africa, there are well-paid jobs to be found if you have the right skills, although temporary and low-income jobs are very hard to find.
This guide outlines everything you need to get started on your job search in South Africa: information and advice on what jobs are available in South Africa, and where to look to find them.
Work in South Africa
The job market in South Africa
The unemployment rate in South Africa is very high at around 25 percent (July 2015) and there is a large pool of unskilled and semi-skilled workers in South Africa. Many employers tend to prefer employing South African citizens over foreigners, and those who do hire employees from abroad must first prove they have been unable to find a South African citizen to fill the position.
The good news for foreigners is that the goverment’s Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGI-SA) encourages the recruitment of professional foreign workers with certain critical skills so long as they have formal qualifications and at least five years’ relevant experience in their specific field.
Available jobs in South Africa
The South African government wants to attract highly skilled foreigners with certain skills to come and work in South Africa in one of the many shortage occupations. According to the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) there are around 35,000 jobs in 53 different categories of shortage occupations, for which you can apply for a critical skills visa. These categories include: agriculture, architecture, business, economics and management, engineering, health and medical science, information, communication and technology, and life/earth sciences.You can find a comprehensive list of the shortage/critical skill jobs, and the qualifications required, on the DHA’s Government Gazette.
If you have experience and skills in teaching science, mathematics and technology you might be able to get a job teaching in a rural area. See Teach South Africa for more information.
South African work environment and management culture
Most employees in South Africa work Monday to Friday, from 9am–5pm. Under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), employees can work up to 45 hours every week (no more than 12 hours a day), can choose to work a further 10 hours a week in overtime, and have 21 days of annual holiday in addition to public holidays. Labour unions are important in South Africa, and about a quarter of the working population belong to a union; the Congress of South African Trade Unions is one of the largest. Union members are often paid better salaries.
For more information about the work environment, see Expatica's guide to business culture in South Africa.
South African work visas and residence permits
If you are planning to move to South Africa to work, you will need to apply for a work visa before you arrive, which acts as your temporary resident visa. You cannot come to South Africa on a tourist visa and then apply for a work visa.
You can apply at the South African embassy or consulate in your home country. Apply at least six weeks before you leave your own country to come to South Africa.
The work seeker’s and work quota visas are no longer available. Now the different types of work visas include:
- General work visa for those with general qualifications, valid for the duration of an employment contract; you will need to have a firm offer of a job/work contract, proof from the employer that a South African citizen could not fill the post and your qualifications checked by the South African authorities.
- Critical skills work visa for highly skilled workers who have recognised qualifications and a minimum of five year’s experience in a sector where there is a skills shortage; you don’t need a job offer to get this visa but you do need to get a job within your specific field within a year of the visa being granted. You may be required to register with your professional body to get the visa. This visa can lead to a five year working visa and permanent residency.
- Intra-transfer work visa for those being transferred to the South African offices of a multi-national company
For more information see Expatica's comprehensive guide to getting a South African work permit.
There are 11 languages spoken in South Africa but English is the language of business, politics and the media. For most jobs, you will need to have a good working knowledge of English and is often desirable to have an understanding of Afrikaans.
You will need to contact the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) to have your qualifications evaluated and to find out whether they are recognised in South Africa. It is possible to have your qualifications evaluated online. If the qualifications are not in English, they must be translated by a sworn translator. If you’re a working in certain sectors like medicine, architecture or the financial services, you may also need to register with the relevant South African professional or trade organisation. There’s a list of some of the main professional associations at the end of this article.
Finding jobs in South Africa
By law all jobs in South Africa must be advertised nationally and will only be opened up to international applicants if a suitable South African citizen isn’t available to do the job. However, in practice many jobs are filled by of mouth, networking or individuals sending speculative applications to companies and organisations.
On the Expatica job page you can look for English and multi-language jobs in South Africa.
South African job websites
Jobs are often advertised on job and recruitment websites. Here are some of the best job websites in South Africa.
- Best Jobs
- Career Junction
- Find a job in Africa
- Jobs South Africa
- Lol Jobs
- Action Appointments – jobs in NGOs and development organisations
- CareerWeb – jobs in IT
- eFinancialCareers – finance, banking, accounting and insurance
- Micheal Page – executive positions
- NGO Pulse – jobs through the Southern African NGO Network
- Here’s a link to all the public service jobs available in South Africa.
Trade unions and associations
Find trade unions in your particular field to contact them for work opportunities. Some of the largest organisations include the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Federation of Unions of South Africa; they each represent 19 different unions.
Company websites for job adverts and speculative applications
It’s acceptable to make the first move and approach a company directly in South Africa. Look at company websites to find vacancies and to make speculative applications. Here’s a list of the top 10 employers in South Africa in 2015.
Public companies in South Africa must be registered with the Companies & Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) and you can access basic information on South African companies here. You can also find businesses via online business directories such as Ananzi, Brabys and SAYellow.
Embassies and consulates
Look at the websites of embassies or consulates in South Africa to see what job opportunities are available – you don’t necessarily have to be a national of a particular embassy/consulate to work for one. Depending on the diplomatic mission and the type of work, jobs can be open to nationals, the spouses or partners of nationals, or to those of any nationality who have residency or the legal right to work in South Africa.
Networking plays an important role in landing a job in South Africa, as jobs are sometimes filled via word-of-mouth. Here are some South African networking sites:
- South Africa Business Network
- South African Business Network on LinkedIn
- South Africa Social & Business Network
- Businesswomen’s Association (BWA)
- WomEng (Women in Engineering).
Check out Meetup to see what professional networking groups are available in different South African cities – or set one up yourself.
Working as an au pair in South Africa
Being an au pair in South Africa is a relatively new idea. Unlike au pairs elsewhere in the world, you probably won’t be asked to do any household chores as host families may have other staff, but you will most likely need to be able to drive. If you want to work as an au pair in South Africa you’ll need a good level of English or Afrikaans – and an au pair work visa. See AuPairLink, Au Pair SA and JCR.
Teaching English in South Africa
There isn’t a lot of work teaching English in South Africa as it’s the second language of many South Africans and most jobs go to locals. However, maths, science and technology teachers are in demand – see Teach South Africa. There are some language schools (eg. International House Johannesburg) and international schools that might also employ qualified foreigners (eg. The American International School of Cape Town).
Applying for a job in South Africa
When you first apply for a job in South Africa, send a brief profile only. This should be one side of A4 size containing personal details, education and a list of previous jobs in chronological order, making clear which ones are the most relevant to the position for which you are applying. Mention that a comprehensive CV is also available. Send a covering letter if the application is speculative.
You may then be asked to send in a comprehensive CV, which should outline all your education, qualifications and employment history in detail.
You can view the Department of Home Affairs' (DHA) website for more information, or visit the advsiory board for your profession:
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (SAICA)
- Dental Technology Association of South Africa (DENTASA)
- Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA)
- Financial Service Board (FSB)
- Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
- Law Society of South Africa (LSSA)
- Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA)
- South African Centre for Project Construction Managers & Plumbers (SACPCMP)
- South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
- South African Council for Natural Science Professions (SACNASP)
- South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP)
- South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP)
- South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering (SAIMECHE).
- South African Nursing Council (SANC)
- South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC)
- South African Veterinary Council (SAVC)
Find jobs in South Africa using Expatica's job search.
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