A guide for finding jobs in South Africa, including information on the current job market, South African work permits, and where to look for vacancies.
If you are planning to live in South Africa, you will generally need to have a job offer before you can enter the country. However, there are well-paid jobs to be found if you have the right skills. Temporary and low-income jobs, however, can be hard to find.
This guide to finding jobs in South Africa includes sections on:
- Work in South Africa
- How to find jobs in South Africa
- Self-employment and freelancing in South Africa
- Traineeships, internships, and volunteering in South Africa
- Applying for a job in South Africa
- Support while looking for a job in South Africa
- Requirements to work in South Africa
- Starting a job in South Africa
- Useful resources
Work in South Africa
Job market in South Africa
South Africa has high unemployment, measured at 28.18% in 2019. It has risen since the economic crisis in 2008, although is lower than it was at the start of the 21st century when it was regularly above 30%.
According to the World Bank, South Africa has the worst unemployment in the sub-Saharan African region which had an average of 6.2% unemployment in 2019.
It can be tough to get work as a migrant in South Africa unless you have specific skills and qualifications needed in the country. Semi-skilled and unskilled jobs are hard to come by and employers prefer to recruit from the pool of unemployed locals. Most working-age expats moving to South Africa tend to have a job offer first before relocating.
However, there are skills shortages in South Africa in certain sectors so it’s worth keeping an eye out for opportunities if you are skilled in any of the following areas identified as shortage in 2019:
- advanced ICT
- executive level finance
- executive managerial
- specialist & academic
- executive level mining
- risk management
Other key sectors in South Africa include manufacturing and chemicals. Large South African employers include:
- Anheuser-Busch InBev (food and drink)
- Naspers (telecommunications)
- British American Tobacco (cigarettes)
- BHP Group (mining and metals)
- Glencore Plc (commodity trading and mining)
- Anglo American (mining)
- FirstRand (finance)
- Vodacom (telecommunications)
Job vacancies in South Africa
If you have a skill that is required by the South African economy, you can apply for a Critical Skills Visa. Details of requirements and how to apply are available on the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) website.
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.
Job salaries in South Africa
From 1 March 2020, the South African minimum wage increases by 3.8% to R20.76 an hour. This is lower for farm workers (R18.68), domestic workers (R15.57), and workers employed on expanded public works programs (R11.42).
The average gross monthly earnings to non-agricultural workers in South Africa in February 2020 is R22,387.
Read more in our guide to salaries in South Africa.
Work culture in South Africa
Most employees in South Africa work Monday to Friday, from 9:00–17:00. Organizational structure within national companies tends to be hierarchical with decision-making done at the top; however, this is more decentralized in some of the bigger global multinational firms.
Meetings and negotiations tend to take a more informal tone than in many American or European companies, although this varies by sector and business size.
Labor laws and labor rights in South Africa
Under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), employees can work up to 45 hours every week (no more than 12 hours a day) and can choose to work a further 10 hours a week in overtime.
Annual leave entitlement is 21 days per year for full-time employment, plus public holidays. Trade unions are important in South Africa and about a quarter of the working population belong to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Union members have higher average salaries than non-members.
There is no legal requirement for employment contracts in South Africa, however, many companies use them. You will find them issued as standard in most large companies.
Notice periods for termination of employment according to the BCEA are as follows:
- One week if the employee has been working for six months or less;
- Two weeks if the employee has been working 6–12 months;
- Four weeks if the employee has been working more than a year (or more than six months if a farm worker or domestic worker)
How to find 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 organizations.
On the Expatica job page, you can look for English as well as multilingual jobs in South Africa.
Public Employment Services
The Employment Services of South Africa (ESSA) contains information about employment and job vacancies on its website, however, you have to register first before accessing any of the website content.
South African job websites
Jobs are often advertised on job and recruitment websites. Here are some of the best job websites in South Africa.
- Action Appointments – jobs in NGOs and development organizations
- CareerWeb – jobs in ICT
- eFinancialCareers – finance, banking, accounting, and insurance
- Micheal Page – executive positions
- NGO Pulse – jobs throughout the Southern African NGO network
Trade unions and associations
Find trade unions in your particular field to contact them for work opportunities. Some of the largest organizations include the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Federation of Unions of South Africa.
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.
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 also 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. You can check South African networking sites such as:
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 or Au Pair SA.
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.
Self-employment and freelancing in South Africa
You can start your own business or work as a self-employed person in South Africa, although you’ll need to apply for the relevant South African visa. Around 15.9% of South African workers are registered as self-employed, which is much lower than both the African average (around 47%) and the sub-Saharan African average (76%).
If you want to register your business as a limited company in South Africa, don’t forget that you will have extra paperwork and tax requirements.
Traineeships, internships, and volunteering in South Africa
You can find internships and summer placements with many NGOs or global companies via organizations such as AISEC or IAESTE. You can also search for internships worldwide at Globalplacement and GoAbroad.
Citizens from EU countries aged 17–30 can volunteer on aid projects in South Africa through the European Voluntary Service (EVS). You can also find volunteering opportunities in South Africa through GVI and WorkAway.
Applying for jobs in South Africa
When you first apply for a job in South Africa, send a brief profile only unless asked to do otherwise. 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 expanding on your suitability for the job if the application is speculative.
Interviews for South African jobs are broadly similar to in Europe or the US, although it will obviously depend on the type of job and company you are applying to. You should research the company in advance of the interview to prepare and come up with some good questions to ask. Be punctual and dress smartly, unless the interview invitation suggests dressing otherwise.
The interview will probably last between 30-60 minutes in most cases. If you are successful, you will be formally offered the job and the company will check your references. Typically, you will be asked to provide two to three referees who can attest to your skills, knowledge, and character.
See our guide to writing a CV and interview tips in South Africa for more detailed information.
Support while looking for a job in South Africa
Support is available to South African residents including foreigners who are looking for work. This is in the form of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) which is a benefit paid to job-seekers. However, it is contributions-based. This means you can only claim if you’ve been working at least 24 hours a week. The amount you get depends on how long you’ve worked for and how much you’ve paid in.
You can register for UIF online via the Department of Labor. This enables you to make contributory payments and apply for benefits.
If you want to improve your skills and knowledge while looking for work in South Africa, there are a number of employment training programs run by the government. The Department of Higher Education and Training has a list of programs available on its website.
See our guide to social security in South Africa for more information on benefits and support.
Requirements to work in South Africa
Work visas in South Africa
If you are planning to move to South Africa to work, you will need to apply for a work visa before you arrive. The visa 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 for different types of South Africa work visa including a general work visa, critical skills visa, intra-company transfer visa and a business visa (if you want to start your own business in South Africa).
Language requirements to work in South Africa
There are 11 languages spoken in South Africa, but English is the language of business, politics, and the media. For most jobs, you need a good working knowledge of English. It is also desirable to have an understanding of Afrikaans.
If you want to improve your English or learn any of the local South African languages, read our guide to language courses in South Africa to find out what is available and where.
Qualifications to work in South Africa
You will need to contact the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) to have your qualifications evaluated and to find out whether they are recognized 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.
You can find information on qualification recognition as well as a list of educational authorities in South Africa on the NARIC website.
If you’re working in certain sectors like medicine, architecture, or financial services, you may also need to register with the relevant South African professional or trade organization. There’s a list of some of the main professional associations at the end of this article.
South African tax and social security numbers
Once you start work in South Africa, you must register as a taxpayer with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) within 60 days of first receiving income. You will then receive a 10-digit unique tax reference number used in all your dealings with SARS and tax in South Africa.
You will also receive a social security card with its own unique social security number once you are enrolled for social security payments in South Africa.
Starting a job in South Africa
Beyond making sure that you’re enrolled for social security in South Africa, which covers you for benefits, a South African pension, and public healthcare in South Africa, you might want to think about taking out private coverage for certain things once you land a job. This includes:
- Private health insurance in South Africa so that you can access the best healthcare available;
- Unemployment insurance to top up the state-funded allowance which is quite low by European and American standards;
- Supplementary pension to provide for your retirement in South Africa. Your employer may offer a good company pension, in addition to other non-cash benefits. If not, there are many private providers to choose from.
List of trade and professional associations in South Africa
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (SAICA)
- Dental Technology Association of South Africa (DENTASA)
- Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA)
- Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA)
- Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
- Law Society of South Africa (LSSA)
- Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA)
- The South African Centre for Project Construction Managers & Plumbers (SACPCMP)
- South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA)
- South African Council for Natural Science Professions (SACNASP)
- The South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP)
- South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP)
- South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering (SAIMECHE).
- The South African Nursing Council (SANC)
- South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC)
- South African Veterinary Council (SAVC)
You can view the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) website for even more information, or visit the advsiory board for your profession: