South Africa

  1. About South AfricaSouth Africa
  2. Working conditions
  3. Sectors and companies that are recruiting
  4. Applying for a job
  5. Major recruitment pointers
  6. Recruitment Resources and networks

1. About South Africa

South Africa represents one of the world’s most multicultural nations, earning it the nickname “The Rainbow Nation.” Those interested in working and doing business in South Africa must understand the way these cultures come together and affect business dealings. While certain rules seem to apply well in most South African business situations, you must also learn about the individual culture of the people with whom you plan to do business and try to adhere to those etiquette rules.

In addition to the multiple cultures there are also numerous languages spoken in the country. The government officially recognizes 11 languages: Afrikaans (13.34%), English (8.2%), isiNdebele (1.59%), isiXhosa (17.64%), isiZulu (23.82%), Sesotho sa Leboa (9.39%), Sesotho (7.93%), Setswana (8.2%), siSwati(2.66%), Tshivenda (2.28%) and Xitsonga (4.44%). However the foreign visitor need not worry as English is the language of commerce.

South Africa is a member of SADC (Southern African Development Community) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia,India, China and South Africa) and a member of the AU (African Union).

Ubuntu describes a South African lifestyle, a philosophy that can be found in everyday life. As there is no direct translation for Ubuntu it is difficult to understand the whole meaning of the expression, but it could be described as the emphasis on human dignity and the concept of living together in peace and harmony. “A person is a person through other people.” It is a very old African concept that expresses the general attitude towards collectivism and philanthropy.

2. Working conditions

All employers and employees are required to adhere to the strict guidelines outlined in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Legal working hours : Basic Conditions of Employment laws set maximum working hours and minimum rest and break periods for workers. A guide is available here.

Leave: Workers must get annual leave of at least - 21 consecutive days, or 1 day for every 17 days worked, or 1 hour for every 17 hours worked.

Length of trial / notice period: the trial period for a new employee is normally of 3 months with a notice period of one week. Workers employed for more than 6 months, but less than a year have a notice period of 2 weeks and 4 weeks for workers employed for more than1 year. The notice period must be respected by both companies and employees.

Employment formalities: Non South African citizens need a work permit. Work permits are obtained more easily by foreign nationals possessing certain skills classified as “scarce” by the South African Department of Home Affairs. Employers are required by law to give certain particulars in writing to an employee. They can be found here.

3. Sectors that are recruiting

South Africa’s economy has traditionally been rooted in the primary sectors – the result of a wealth of mineral resources and favourable agricultural conditions.

However, the economy has been characterised by a structural shift in output over the past four decades.

Since the early 1990s, economic growth has been driven mainly by the tertiary sector – which includes wholesale and retail trade, tourism and communications. Now South Africa is moving towards becoming a knowledge-based economy, with a greater focus on technology, e-commerce and financial and other services.

Among the key sectors that contribute to the gross domestic product and keep the economic engine running are manufacturing, retail, financial services, communications, mining, agriculture and tourism.

4. Applying for a job

Application documents: CV with photograph and copies of degrees if available. Reference letters can be helpful.

Advice regarding the CV: the photograph should be of good quality. The CV should be relatively short and state the employment history in inverse chronological order. Personal details (Family situation, etc.) are expected.

You may register your profile with AIMS International South Africa here.

5. Major recruitment pointers

Business Etiquette/knowing how to behave during interviews: wear a tie, shake hands, don’t ask about working hours, holidays, etc. during the first interview. Don’t speak about salary or benefits unless the interviewer asks you to (this subject might be broached only in a later interview)

Flagship training: University Business Schools – University of Stellenbosch Business School, University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, University of Pretoria Gordon Institute of Business Science.

6. Recruitment resources and networks

Important business networking sites: LinkedIn, Maties Alumni.

Best sites for jobs:,,,, and

Where to network: University Alumni Networks, Institute of DirectorsASTD and Chambers of Commerce.