Working in South Africa

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Cape Town Central Business DistrictThe working environment in South Africa hinges on a two-tiered economy generally associated with developing countries. One level is similar to a high-producing Western country and the other is largely informal.  

Despite this complex contrast, South Africa’s diversified economy and 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 gaps in many sectors. This has encouraged companies in sectors like finance, medicine, engineering and even some artisanal trades to consider employing foreigners. 

The Rainbow Nation's professional world has abundant opportunities for qualified and experienced expats. Those with a tertiary education will find that integrating into the economy won't be too difficult. South Africa is also a fertile ground for entrepreneurial activity, and expats looking to open a business in South Africa can potentially 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 and medicine. Senior managers in the public sector, foreign language speakers for technical support and architects are also in high demand. Temporary positions and low-income jobs are difficult to find though, with an already high unemployment rate.

Expats will need a South African work visa and should be aware 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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