WP2: Data

Improving statistical data on foreign workers in the South African labour market

Existing national statistical instruments omit any description and account of foreigners' participation within the South African economy. By and large, data is inadequate and limited. This work package aimed to improve the quality of available statistics on foreign labour in South Africa, and to allow comparison to domestic labour participation at a national and local level. WP2 was guided by an Advisory Committee comprised of the Department of Labour (DoL), Statistics SA, the SA Local Government Association (SALGA), the ILO, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and ACMS. It was also supported financially by the Migrating Out of Poverty Research Consortium.

The first phase of work commissioned a critical study of available data and collection methods present in South Africa. A series of reports was published in July 2013. MiWORC Report N°2 provided a detailed assessment of the scope and relevance of existing statistical data sets in South Africa. It pointed to strengths, gaps, and methodological limitations. MiWORC Report N°3 provided recommendations on the technical and institutional aspects of a longer-term improvement strategy. In MiWORC Report N°4, technical recommendations as to the improvement of the national Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) and options available for local level surveys were presented.

The second phase ran from September 2013 until June 2014. An in-depth analysis of the migration module introduced by Statistics South Africa in its QLFS was conducted to providing lead evidence on nationwide comparisons between foreign and South African workers’ participation and unemployment rates. This analysis also provided comparative indicators on distribution per industrial sector and demographic profiles. It was conducted in partnership with Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), with whom ACMS had a service level agreement. Of significance were skills transfer workshops with Stats SA staff which aimed to ensure that such analyses could be reproduced internally within Stats SA for future iterations of the migration module.


This work package was also supported by the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium (RPC), which is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID). It focuses on the relationship between migration and poverty and is located in six regions across Asia and Africa. The main goal of Migrating out of Poverty is to provide robust evidence on migration drivers and impacts that will contribute to improving policies affecting the lives and well-being of poor migrants, their communities and countries through a programme of innovative research, capacity building and policy engagement. The RPC also conduct sanalysis in order to understand the migration policy process in developing regions and updates and extends world renowned migration databases at the University of Sussex with the inclusion of data on internal migration.

The Migrating out of Poverty consortium is coordinated by the University of Sussex. Core partners are: RMMRU in Bangladesh; the Centre for Migration Studies at the University of Ghana; the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore; the African Centre for Migration & Society at the University of the Witwatersrand; and the African Migration and Development Policy Centre (AMADPOC), Nairobi. The UK Department for International Development (DfID) supports policies, programmes and projects to promote poverty reduction globally. DFID provided funds for this work package as part of that goal but the views and opinions expressed in outputs are those of the author(s) alone.