The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate the social protection, if any, afforded to migrant workers in South Africa. To accomplish this purpose, the ambit of the concept of ‘social protection’ is investigated and the legal status and different categories of migrant workers are probed. The strands of social protection identified and evaluated in the study are:
• social assistance;
• social insurance; and
• labour security.
Each of the categories that define the social protection afforded to migrant workers is examined. The ILO, UN and SADC have numerous standards and instruments dedicated to the extension of social protection as well as the protection of migrant workers globally. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, acknowledges that international law must be considered when interpreting the Bill of Rights. Furthermore, the courts must prefer a reasonable interpretation of legislation, consistent with international law. Each component of social protection, as well as migration, is regulated by different legislative instruments.
South Africa has legislative instruments dedicated to the regulation of social assistance, social insurance and labour security. In South Africa, irregular migrants receive limited social protection. The South African courts have played a positive role in the development and broadening of the social protection afforded to migrant workers, especially in the form of labour security. The limitations in the legislative instruments that regulate labour security are being extended to give effect to the courts’ decisions. Most of South Africa’s neighbouring countries have some form of social protection, but other SADC countries can receive lessons from South Africa with regard to the development of social protection, specifically in the form of labour security.