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April 2001, Volume 8, Number 4

South Africa: Skilled, Racism

South Africa will ease its immigration laws in order to attract skilled foreigners from countries such as India and Russia. South Africa is estimated to have lost between 1.1 million and 1.6 million skilled workers, managers and other professionals over the last six years. Most experts say that official statistics, which report the lose of about 25,000 skilled South Africans since 1994, when the African National Congress came to power, are gross underestimates.

Teaching and nursing are traditionally low-paying jobs--average monthly salary of a primary school teacher with a three-year diploma and a class of about 45 pupils is around 3,400 rand ($450 ). Nurses earn about the same, and 350 a month are leaving for higher paying jobs in Britain, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

On March 12, 2001 the South African government announced that it will phase out foreign labor in agriculture to reduce unemployment. Zimbabweans dominate on farms in the Northern Province.

There are large numbers of illegal immigrants and high unemployment in South Africa: the Human Science Research Council puts the number of illegal foreigners at between 2.4 million and four million, while the South African Police Service reckons the number to be eight million.

Racism. South Africa will host the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban from August 31 to September 7, 2001. Advocates say that the first two conferences on racism dealt with decolonization and apartheid; this one aims to deal with reparations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade as well as violence against foreigners.

Kishore Mahbubani, the author of "Can Asians Think?" and Singapore's ambassador to the United Nations, said that "racism is a sunrise issue… It is a natural result of a shrinking globe. Races that in a sense never had contact with each other are thrown together in close proximity in a new neighborhood. The first sign of this is the new wave of immigrants."

The 53-member United Nations Human Rights Commission, elected from and by the United Nations' 189-member governments, censures governments for failing to abide by international rights agreements, sends out monitors and influences access to an international platform to report on claims of abuses. Five Commission members--Cuba, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Vietnam-have been accused of human rights violations.

"South Africa to phase out foreign labor," Xinhua News Service, March 12, 2001. Benita van Eyssen, "South Africa seeks immigrants to plug labor shortage," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, March 9 2001. Barbara Crossette, "Global Look at Racism Hits Many Sore Points," New York Times, March 4, 2001.