South Africa is preparing to restrict the number of critical skills eligible for work permits issued to expats, a move foreign workers fear could push them out of the country.
The changes to South Africa's critical skills list expected to be published imminently. If the unofficial draft list circulating among foreign workers, marked "draft confidential" in a copy obtained by International Investment, is any indication of what is to come, the move will have significant implications for companies operating in skills shortage areas.
Bonang Mohale, chief executive of Business Leadership SA, an association dealing with government and labour, said the draft was "much shorter and restrictive", removing some sectors like architecture and reducing others like life and earth sciences.
South Africa suffers from a gross skills shortage, so all of these reductions are not helpful"
"South Africa suffers from a gross skills shortage, so all of these reductions are not helpful," he said.
Lawyers say the draft table of required expertise excludes key skills South Africa lacks, including corporate general managers and artificial intelligence engineers.
"This is the first time we will have a revised critical skills list since 2014 and we don't know how they came up with this list and who they consulted with," immigration lawyer Stefanie de Saude-Darbandi told Reuters.
Some foreigners suspect the apparent move to curb expatriate employment terms reflects a growing climate of economic nationalism unfavourable to the hiring of non-South Africans.
The Department of Home Affairs has been in talks with the Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Labour to finalise an official list for publication and it will come into effect immediately once signed by the minister.
Click here to subscribe to International Investment's free twice-daily newsletter