1948 – Migrant Labour Act

1948 – Migrant Labour Act

The 1948 Migrant Labour Act entrenched agreements between Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland that dated back as early as 1947. The original agreement was to included South Africa but they later withdrew from the scheme.

The Act allowed employers to withhold part of the wages due to migrant employees. The sums withheld were used to buy Wage Stamps ( also know as employment stamps) that were then affixed to workbooks. The stamps were valued at five shillings and were available at various convenient centres or Post Offices to be purchased by employers. By 1953, 23,190 a month had been issued to Nyasaland workers, and 6,708 a month to Northern Rhodesia workers.

Part of the value purchased was then remitted to the employee upon returning home, or to their families. The employee would detach a remittance sheet and either themselves or their families could present this sheet to the Native Commissioner who would pay the value of the sheet after the employee had worked four months in Southern Rhodesia.

Although popular in Southern Rhodesia & Nyasaland, the scheme was unpopular in Northern Rhodesia with both employers and workers. In 1960 the Act was duly repealed as Southern Rhodesia was in an over-supply of labour.

Wage Stamps



  • The Balance of Payments of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, 1945-1954 – Alexander George Irvine
  • The Statute Law of Southern Rhodesia 1950
  • Labour Export Policy in the Development of Southern Africa – Bill Paton