Working in South Africa

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Cape Town Central Business DistrictSouth Africa’s working environment hinges on a two-tiered economy generally associated with developing countries. One tier appears to function at the same level as a highly producing Western country and the other is largely informal.  

Despite this complex juxtaposition, South Africa’s diversified economy and its position as the African country with the most highly developed infrastructure has helped to maintain optimism through continued job creation.

The “brain drain” resulting from skilled South African workers moving overseas has created a gaping hole in many sectors and has encouraged many companies to consider employing foreigners. This is evident in fields such as finance, medicine and engineering, and even artisan trades like plumbing and electricians.

The Rainbow Nation has a professional world with abundant working opportunities for skilled and experienced expats. Those with a degree of tertiary education will find that ingraining themselves into the economy won't be too difficult. South Africa is also a fertile ground for entrepreneurial activity, and those looking to open a business in South Africa have the potential to have great success.

South Africa’s primary sectors include manufacturing, mining and agricultural services. The trade sector remains the largest source of employment in the country, but expats will find that the greatest skills shortages in South Africa, and the most opportunities, are in fields such as engineering, IT, communications and education. Senior managers in the public sector are also in high demand, as are nurses, specialist doctors and other medical professionals, architects and artisans.

It should be noted, however, that due to South Africa's high unemployment rate and a large population of unskilled workers, temporary positions and low-income jobs are hard to come by. 

Expats need a work permit in order to work in South Africa and should take care to realise that salaries negotiated in the weak Rand may make for a comfortable lifestyle within local borders, but may not go far outside of the continent.

The working week in South Africa generally follows a five-day, 9am to 5pm pattern, with an average of 15 days leave per year.

The most popular cities for expats in South Africa are Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Johannesburg is renowned for its play hard, work hard culture while the coastal cities are known for a more balanced, relaxed lifestyle.

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