South Africa

Working in South Africa?

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Working in South Africa

Operating in South Africa has not only been a favorite option for multinational companies for a number of years now — the country also holds great opportunities for expats, provided they have the qualifications it takes! Get a glimpse of what to expect of working in South Africa on InterNations.
South Africa is not only leading the continent in terms of GDP, but also has the most reputable financial sector.

Taking a Look into the Economy

The combined efforts of the South African workforce place it firmly at the top rank in Africa in terms of GDP per capita. South Africa accounts for almost a quarter of the continent’s GDP. Since the abolition of apartheid, the nation has been strengthening and mending its international ties, leading to many countries’ and multinational corporations’ heightened interest in trading with or working in South Africa.

Today, some of the most important economic sectors include industry, particularly the automotive and the emerging IT and communications sectors, mining (the nation has considerable wealth in natural resources), as well as the banking and services sectors in general. While agriculture plays only a marginal role, those South Africa’s vineyards bless gourmands across the globe with world-class wines.

The nation’s economy is heavily localized in a few large areas, which is also the reason for the ongoing rural depopulation. Today, the vast majority of residents are working in South Africa’s economic hubs in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and the Pretoria-Johannesburg area.

FIFA World Cup 2010

Both nationally and internationally, the FIFA World Cup 2010, the largest event ever to take place on the African continent, raised hopes for a considerable economic upturn for the country. The signs were positive, with the creation of many jobs leading to employment opportunities in South Africa’s tourism and construction sectors. However, while the event itself was a large success, the positive economic side effects did not last long, leaving the country with considerable debt. Nevertheless, it was considered an asset for the nation as a whole, since South Africa was able to present itself positively in the global spotlight.

The Economic Issues of South Africa

While the economy in the abovementioned areas rivals that of most industrialized countries, the economic state of the countryside is far less advanced. Often, those hoping to find a job in South Africa’s main hubs leave only the very young or very old behind. Thus, the number of those fit for working in South Africa’s countryside diminishes continuously.

Unemployment in South Africa is extremely high. About a quarter of the population is out of a job, and the majority of unemployed people live on less than 1.25 USD a day, the threshold for extreme poverty.

Opportunities for Expats

There is a steady demand for foreigners and expats who are willing and qualified to work in South Africa. The country has been experiencing widespread brain drain during the past two decades, i.e. highly skilled experts and university graduates opting against taking up employment in South Africa and going abroad instead. This unfortunate fact opens up many opportunities for expats, often in lucrative positions. Oftentimes, gathering experience — and quite a bit of cosmopolitanism — through an attractive opportunity of working in South Africa has given expats quite the career boost!

The Road to Legal Employment

South African immigration law offers a wide variety of temporary residence permits that make living, studying, and working in South Africa possible for foreigners and expats. There are also special permits for retirees who would like to spend their golden years in the country. In this regard, South Africa is a very open and welcoming country.

In general terms, your dream of relocating to South Africa begins with a successful application for a job opening in the country which cannot be filled locally. Furthermore, the department of Home Affairs issues an annually updated list with occupations in which there is a lack of qualified personnel, directly inviting expats to fill positions in South Africa’s key economic sectors, often in executive roles. Another option is the intra-company transfer for overseas employees working for South Africa-based subsidiaries or affiliates of their company.

With the right set of skills, you can also take the initiative and get a work permit for South Africa without having to score a job offer. Highly qualified experts and individuals with particular expertise in their field are always welcome to start working in South Africa! Read our article on moving to South Africa for further info on work and residence permits.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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