Nice work if you can get it

Staff Writer | Jun 12, 2019
South Africa’s 52-strong delegation to the centenary conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Switzerland is ranked among the largest.

‘Decent work’ is one of the key themes of the conference in Geneva, but questions are being raised about how such a large South African delegation to the event is going to help the country’s nearly 10 million jobless people.

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the keynote address at a conference session where the outcomes of the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work were presented. Ramaphosa co-chairs the commission with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. One of the commission’s ‘outcomes’, the ‘third pillar of a human-centred agenda’, is investment in ‘decent and sustainable work'.

The conference coincides with the ILO’s centenary celebration from 10 to 21 June under the theme, ‘Building a Better Future with Decent Work’. The objective of the conference is to review and outline programmes for the next century, affirm the ILO as the global authority on labour and employment matters, and strengthen its role and influence in shaping the future of work.

Ramaphosa is accompanied by Minister of Employment and Labour Thembelani Nxesi and a delegation of National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) members. 

Some Department of Labour staff are concerned, however, that South Africa has sent too many people. People were ‘talking in the corridors’, a source said, about South Africa’s sending the largest delegation to the conference.

Democratic Alliance labour spokesperson Michael Bagraim said in a letter to Business Day that this figure included 18 Department of Labour staff and some others who were ‘hangers-on’.

‘Not much can be gained by most of these people being there, since they seem to be going just for the jaunt... Our government and country can ill afford a junket of this nature.’

South Africa has one of the worst rates of unemployment in the world, at nearly 30%, and over 50% for the youth. In 2016, the ILO ranked South Africa as the 9th worst country for employment in the world, and the lowest-ranked country with a mature and developed economy.

The IRR has argued that labour policy reform is central to South Africa’s hopes of an economic recovery, and that the minimum wage regulations Ramaphosa signed into law last year have the effect of pricing the poor out of jobs.


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