May 2023 1st edition

BRICS member states set the salivating stage of sustainable enterprises and Decent Work Agenda

Theme: Ensuring decent work, dignity and respect for all

The historic BRICS Employment Working Group (EWG) under South Africa’s presidency held recently in Johannesburg, has seen member states putting their shoulders to the wheel and committing themselves to build sustainable enterprises, spur innovation and enhance productivity while at the same time promoting labour rights and reducing decent work deficits.

To give substance to this ideals, the South African presidency suggested that the member countries Brazil – Russia – India – China and South Africa have to look at how to optimise the relationship between productivity – decent work to promote economic and social outcomes, including economic growth, innovation, sustainable enterprises, skills development, job creation and poverty reduction across macro-economic sectoral and enterprises levels, Mr Thobile Lamati, Director General (DG) of the Department of Employment and Labour, said in his opening remarks.

“The long-term goal is to address pervasive low productivity and poor working conditions in general while simultaneously attempting to develop a skilled workforce and productive economies. Productivity measures the amount of value created for each hour that is worked in society.

The summit also brought in, representatives of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and allied structures from ARLAC and ISSA, along with those from governments of Eswatini – Malawi – Namibia and Zimbabwe.

It will be followed by others in May, June and in September at which a declaration will be adopted by Labour and Employment Ministers from the BRICS countries.

Ms Boitumelo Moloi, Deputy Minister of the Department of Employment and Labour, told the meeting that the world was grappling with multiple challenges, such as volatile geopolitics, socio-economic as well as climate change crises.

She said the theme for the labour and employment stream is to ensure decent work, dignity and respect for all. She also stated that the South African presidency was keen to achieve this goal through the following priorities, namely, building sustainable enterprises, including new form of employment and increasing productivity; Promoting labour rights and decreasing decent work deficits in the context the recovery; universal social protection and ensuring minimum basic income; and promoting decent work by closing skills gaps in the informal economy.

From the above, the EWG, placed more emphasis on the two priorities namely building sustainable enterprises, including new forms of employment and increasing productivity, and promoting labour rights and decreasing decent deficits in the context of the recovery.

At the summit the ILO, presented a background paper on the relationship between productivity and decent job creation with a view to the situation in the BRICS countries.

In this regard, seven out of ten (10) workers are employed in small economic units in BRICS. In addition low productivity and decent work deficits are more pronounced in small enterprises. This is due to both external and internal reasons. The external reasons include difficulties accessing finance, credit and markets and the complexity of navigating regulatory frameworks. The internal factors identified include; below –average management capacity, limited access to resources, skills and markets, and lower economies of scale.

On the other hand, weak social dialogue and collective bargaining functions can impede job quality gains.

The South African presidency proposed the creation of a collaboration platform for discussing the BRICS Productivity Ecosystems within the context of the strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025. South African plans to launch this initiative during the Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting (LEMM) in September 2023. The idea seemed to gain traction from the BRICS Member States. As we advance, we will work with the ILO, whom we expect to consult with the country offices in our respective countries, to develop a concept note that we will present in May for consideration in the second EWG.

In a world confronted by multi-layered crises and challenges, the importance of rights and standards in the world of work for establishing social justice and decent work for everyone is more than just a matter of choice but requires a conscious effort to ameliorate the damage to socioeconomic outcomes. Accordingly, the South African Presidency suggested that labour and employment sector needed to examine the roles of labour rights-friendly environments and decent work that can contribute towards economic growth and recovery in the current conditions of stagflation, rising energy prices, joblessness and low investments.

The ILO provided an overview of fundamental principles and rights in the five BRICS countries as well as the legislative and policy frameworks in place in each to protect and promote these rights. It then provides some insights on measures taken to realise Fundamental principles and rights at work (FPRWs) in the five BRICS countries and some overarching policy considerations. The Centenary Declaration on the future of work was adopted in 2019, reaffirming the member countries commitment to its fundamental principles and rights at work. The declaration outlines four key pillars for action: investing in people’s capabilities, institution for the future of work, decent and sustainable work, and the future of work for the greater good.

The forthcoming meetings of the EWG which will culminate at the September Ministerial gathering will serve as a carefully-designed build-up for the big occasion at which the desires of BRICS member states will be given teeth for implementation. Quite clearly, the sustainability of enterprises and the reduction of decent work deficits will be high up on the agenda. Observers can only be invited to watch the space.

Issued by: Teboho Thejane

Departmental of Employment & Labour - Spokesperson

Cell: 082-697-0694

@deptoflabour  |  Department of Employment and Labour

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