Pri­ori­tise South Africans for jobs

CityPress - - Business And Tenders & Auctions - MALUSI GIGABA busi­ness@city­press.co.za

There is a neg­a­tive nar­ra­tive about in­ter­na­tional mi­gra­tion em­a­nat­ing par­tic­u­larly from some pow­er­ful Western na­tions, which seems to slant more to­wards na­tional chau­vin­ism and xeno­pho­bia. Con­trary to that nar­ra­tive, the emerg­ing pol­icy frame­work in South Africa em­pha­sises a devel­op­ment-ori­ented, risk­fo­cused and Afro­cen­tric ap­proach aligned with the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and co­op­er­a­tion pol­icy as well as our as­pi­ra­tions to­wards in­clu­sive growth.

Our mi­gra­tion poli­cies must con­trib­ute to get­ting lo­cals em­ployed so they re­alise the ben­e­fits of mi­gra­tion and sup­port our pro­gres­sive poli­cies, while erad­i­cat­ing xeno­pho­bia that may arise from our fail­ure to ap­pre­ci­ate the so­cial pres­sures the poor ex­pe­ri­ence.

The draft white pa­per makes bold and pro­gres­sive propo­si­tions re­gard­ing man­ag­ing eco­nomic mi­grants from the South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity, and we have al­ready laid the ba­sis of that with spe­cial per­mits for Zim­bab­wean and Le­sotho mi­grants.

Govern­ment pol­icy must pri­ori­tise cit­i­zens with re­gards to em­ploy­ment and eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. We ex­pect busi­nesses to pri­ori­tise lo­cals, and only em­ploy for­eign na­tion­als when the right skills are not avail­able lo­cally.

We recog­nise that im­mi­grants are an im­por­tant el­e­ment of any econ­omy, bring­ing new skills, knowl­edge and con­nec­tions that are valu­able. How­ever, the South African econ­omy and the goal of shared wealth can­not be re­alised on the ba­sis of the un­em­ploy­ment and eco­nomic marginal­i­sa­tion of lo­cals. The bur­den of un­em­ploy­ment falls dis­pro­por­tion­ately on blacks, women and es­pe­cially the youth.

It then be­comes in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to ig­nore the con­cerns about busi­nesses that seem to pre­fer to hire for­eign na­tion­als. In ad­di­tion, some un­scrupu­lous em­ploy­ers seem to prey on vul­ner­a­ble mi­grants will­ing to ac­cept il­le­gal and lower wages, and work­ing con­di­tions. Many of these com­plaints point to the restau­rant, hos­pi­tal­ity, con­struc­tion, agri­cul­ture and pri­vate se­cu­rity sec­tors.

A re­quire­ment of the busi­ness visas we is­sue to for­eign na­tion­als seek­ing to es­tab­lish busi­nesses in the coun­try, is that 60% of the staff com­ple­ment be South African. When home af­fairs is­sue work visas to for­eign na­tion­als, we do so on con­di­tion that the depart­ment of labour cer­ti­fies the com­pany com­plies with reg­u­la­tions, and pub­licly ad­ver­tised the po­si­tion but could not find a South African will­ing and ca­pa­ble to fill the role.

The un­just and ex­clu­sion­ary struc­ture of our econ­omy is al­ready a source of racial and class-based ten­sion. We have seen for­eign na­tion­als be­come the vic­tims of vi­o­lence dur­ing times of so­cial ten­sion. We must be vig­i­lant and proac­tive about pre­vent­ing sit­u­a­tions where mi­grants are per­ceived to be in un­fair com­pe­ti­tion with lo­cals.

To take proac­tive ac­tion on these is­sues, I have be­gun en­gag­ing the lead­er­ship of var­i­ous sec­tors. This week I met with the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor. We will not ab­di­cate our reg­u­la­tory role but our pref­er­ence, how­ever, is to col­lab­o­rate with busi­ness.

The Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan Vi­sion 2030 em­pha­sises the need for shared vi­sion, trust and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween busi­ness, labour and govern­ment. It is bet­ter for all con­cerned that we pri­ori­tise the em­ploy­ment of lo­cals through di­a­logue rather than an­tag­o­nism.

The hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor lead­er­ship at­trib­uted re­luc­tance by some em­ploy­ers to hire lo­cals to neg­a­tive per­cep­tions about the work ethic of our work­ers, and in­abil­ity to af­ford the pre­vail­ing wages and train­ing costs.

That is why we sup­port the no­tion of a “min­i­mum wage” for all work­ers, and shall ad­vo­cate for im­mi­grant work­ers to be em­ployed un­der ex­actly the same con­di­tions as South African work­ers.

Gigaba is min­is­ter of home af­fairs

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