New arrivals working in Cape Town often find the daily grind to be a considerable step back from the rat race they may be used to. To some, Capetonians seem to contend that there are too many other wonderful ways to be spending time. In fact, many of the people who have relocated here don't hang onto the ladder of ambition for too long, as they reprioritise their lives.
On the downside, employers are fully aware that the city's striking landscapes beckon qualified workers from South Africa and elsewhere to the metropolis. It follows that fewer job opportunities exist in the city and smaller salaries accompany the positions that do become available, especially when compared with the likes of Johannesburg. Generally, once people pin down a good job with a respectable company, turnover is relatively low.
Job market in Cape Town
The media and advertising industry, the IT sector and asset management businesses are well represented, and a high proportion of expats working in Cape Town can be found in one of these industries. The city is also a bastion of creativity, and there are plenty of opportunities for young people to expand their artistic abilities while embarking on a creative career – those with a focused entrepreneurial spirit often find success.
Cape Town's stunning natural scenery, favourable weather patterns and the relatively low costs of local labour have also made the city an international destination for the film industry. That said, opportunities in this sector are subject to drastic seasonal changes.
Tourism and hospitality services are also thriving industries, and many expats from abroad find employment in positions where knowledge of a second language apart from English is a necessity.
Foreign nationals will, however, need a work permit to be legally employed.
Finding a job in Cape Town
In some ways, the city still operates like a small village. Positions in Cape Town are often found and extended through personal recommendations or word of mouth. Expats who have not been lured abroad with a solid employment opportunity should invest time and energy into networking and creating meaningful connections.
The traditional routes of job hunting also exist and, for expats with the proper documentation, a tertiary degree and relevant work experience, finding employment is very much possible, although it may take some time.
Major local newspapers tend to publish an employment supplement with job listings once a week, and there are several popular websites that are regularly updated as positions open up in a variety of fields. The city also has recruitment agencies and headhunters, and the fee for their services is generally shouldered by employers.
Work culture in Cape Town
South Africa's work culture is informal, with humour and friendly banter commonly heard around the office. The dress code is generally quite relaxed, especially in creative industries. Relatively few companies require their employees to wear formal business clothes in the office, except in some corporate settings.
Most companies in Cape Town operate on a relatively flat hierarchical structure. Employees are generally encouraged to voice their views and opinions. That said, the boss still ultimately has the final say in important decisions.
►For more on employment in the country, see Working in South Africa
"Generally speaking, unless you have very specialist skills (languages, IT, finance) you’d struggle here. The wages and employment packages generally aren’t all that lucrative either." Read more of Shantalie's insights in her expat interview.
"Work culture in Cape Town is more laid back and comparable to the European work environment. In my company, we rarely see anyone working overtime (past 6pm) and arriving before 8am. This is quite different from the US work culture." Learn more about Lisa's experience of the city's work culture in her expat interview.
Are you an expat living in Cape Town?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Cape Town. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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