ANC Daily News Briefing/Sapa, 26 June 2008

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Research shows that migrants are not stealing jobs from South Africans, but are actually creating jobs, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdadlana said on Thursday. Mdadlana said that in 2004, Stats SA figures showed that spending in South Africa by visitors from Africa and the Middle East exceeded the combined expenditure of visitors from the Americas. According to the SA Tourism Strategic Research Unit, in 2005 seven of the top 10 spending countries in South Africa were from the Southern African Development Community. "It is therefore a misconception to conclude that migrants steal jobs from South Africans. The opposite is actually true. They are job creators, first for themselves - and for the rest of us," he said in a speech prepared for delivery at the 21st annual labour law conference held in Sandton. He expressed concern about non compliance with labour law in areas of Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) payments, paid leave, 332 deaths at workplaces last year, and high student drop outs due to poverty. Over five million workers were not registered for UIF and 4.1 million did not have paid leave entitlements. He said a Human Sciences Research Council study found that half of students who enrol in higher education programmes do not complete their studies and drop out due to poverty and lack of finances. This costs government R4,5 billion in lost grants. Employers must also stop saying they cannot find suitable black people to employ, because research indicated otherwise, he said. The number of people in bargaining councils has decreased and a Labour Force Survey showed that working hours had increased from 47.6 hours a week to 49.1 with people working longer, for less. "Yet we continue to be told that our labour market is rigid and needs to be reformed. We are told that we scare investors away and that our labour force is not productive," he said. "How can our workers be more productive when they have no means of coming to work in the first place? How can they be more productive when they come to work on hungry stomachs?" he asked. "...It is only when we invest more in our workers that we can demand more from them." He called for migration, which he says is predominantly based on labour, to be regularised. Illegal immigration encourages exploitation so migrant labourers should be properly documented "like any other South African". The Labour Court recently ruled that even undocumented migrants and refugees have the same labour rights as enshrined in the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and are protected by the Constitution. "Everyone has a right to fair labour practices. There is therefore no escaping compliance by anyone, whether employing South Africans, legal migrants, or illegal migrants."