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LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE; LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES SELECT COMMITTEE: JOINT MEETING
3 September 2002
HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY AND WORKSHOP ON LABOUR MARKET TRENDS: BRIEFING
Chairpersons: Mr G Oliphant (ANC) [Portfolio Committee]
Ms C Nkuna (ANC) [Select Committee]
Documents handed out
Human Resource Development Strategy Presentation
Labour Market Trends Presentation
Human Resource Development Strategy: A Nation at Work for a Better Life for All
The presentation on the Human Resource Development Strategy (HRDS) dealt with the effects of the apartheid legacy, the background to the HRDS, the five strategic objectives of the Department were detailed as well as the priority areas and progress made for 2001, and the challenges facing its implementation were outlined.
The discussion on this presentation included the progress made to ensure that the quality of education received is improved, the involvement of various government departments in implementing the HRDS, the provision of further training to employees and whether mechanisms are in place to monitor this. It was suggested that this HRDS should operate in favour of women, as they were most affected by the previous dispensation. The Committee recognised the need to provide South African workers with skills training so that skilled foreign workers do not flood the market and occupy the top positions. The extent to which the HRDS accommodates prior learning even though the worker has not been properly certified was also considered, and whether mechanisms have been put in place to ensure the HRDS budget is spent properly.
The presentation of Labour Market Trends dealt with the negative impact of the Apartheid legacy on the labour market, with special reference to macro-economic instability, the poor industrial performance and the impact on education and training. The position and progress made since 1994 was outlined with reference to macro-economic stability, the stimulation of economic growth, employment trends and a breakdown of unemployment figures, the major problems being experienced in the labour market and the policy objectives of the Department of Labour.
The discussion on this presentation raised concerns with the inadequate growth rate and the influence of the rigid and inflexible labour laws on it and the poor performance of the fund established to create employment for those between fifteen and 34 years of age. The Department was asked to explain the steps taken to eradicate the effects of Apartheid on the labour market, and some examples were provided. The role played by NEDLAC in benefiting the national economy was considered, and the new domestic worker salary dispensation was discussed.
Mr G Oliphant (ANC), Acting Chairperson of the Labour Portfolio Committee, informed Members that Ms Adrienne Bird would be presenting the first briefing, and congratulated her on being recently promoted to the position of Deputy Director General: Human Resource Development in the Department of Labour.
Briefing on Human Resource Development Strategy
Ms Bird commenced the presentation (please see attached document) by outlining the apartheid legacy with regard to poor schooling and “bantu education” and a low level of commitment to employee training. She also provided a background to the Human Resource Development Strategy (HRDS) and its final adoption by the Cabinet Lekgotla in 2001. The slide entitled “Background” indicated that the strategy is not based on “manpower planning” because it cannot readily be ascertained with a reliable degree of certainty, and an integrated approach has thus been adopted. This slide also refers to “growing the future through research”, and in this regard institutions such as the CSIR have served to establish new niche markets and additional income generating machinery.
The text captured on the slide entitled “Vision” was taken directly from the State of the Nation Address delivered by President Mbeki in 2001, and the intention here is that those who find employment would then benefit society and effect qualitative improvements to benefit South Africa.
It has to be appreciated that, under the “Overall Objectives” slide, the Department cannot do this alone, but it will play a central role in this regard. The second objective refers to projects such as the Gini coefficient, which is used to compare the salaries of those in top management positions to those at the bottom of the scale, and this would then translate into a ration used to reduce the disparities. The measure used in terms of the third objective is the world competitiveness report. These three objectives are long-term goals that can only be achieved over a period of time.
The following four slides detail the strategic objectives in this regard, as well as a breakdown of these five strategic objectives and there various sub-themes. All the clear indicators have not yet been identified, and some are more advanced than others.
There is a typographical error in the “Target 2014/5” column on the slide entitled “Strategic Objective 1”, and the “800 00” should in fact read “800 000”. The slide dealing with “Strategic Objective 2” highlights that there has been an increase in the supply of scarce skills, and the Immigration Act would have an impact here. Most of the information contained on the slide entitled “Strategic Objective 3” is from the National Skills Development Strategy, which is part of the subset of the broader HRDS. It has to be conceded that there is insufficient specificity regarding the “Strategic Objective 4” slide and the Department of Arts, Science, Culture and Technology (DACST) has formulated a strategy, but it has yet to identify good and clear targets.
The reference to “road mapping” in the second column on that slide refers to those scenarios which might arrive in future and for which it has been found desirable to “design a road so that the Department can get to where it wants to be”. These desirable areas include biotechnology and raw materials.
The slide entitled “Strategic Objective 5” aims to link the previous four objectives, so that the initiatives to better educate South African can prepare them for the working world as well. This would allow for better qualified and skilled persons on the supply side of the equation and would ensure a better outcome.
The red portions on the slide entitled “2002/3 HRD Priorities” indicate challenges facing the Department, and the remainder of the slide outlines the strategies that have been put in place to address these.
The slide entitled “Priority and Progress Areas for 2001” fails to mention that the Minister of Labour (the Minister) has allocated R35m to scarce skills, and this amount has been procured from the National Skills Fund.
The final slide, entitled “Key South African HRD Challenges”, indicates just how complicated the world is and illustrates the dynamic relationship between the supply and demand aspects, which must be brought closer together so that they are not as distant. It should instead be a relationship based on trust and development.
The Acting Chair welcomed Adv Rams Ramashia: Director-General.
Mr J Durand (NNP) suggested that the entire plan of the Department is based on high quality education, and without it the Department would be a “straw house”. Yet it has been eight years since 1994 and no real progress has been made with regard to education, and the only growth has taken place at the former “Model C” schools. Furthermore, it seems that the only improvements have been made at those schools at which the pupils are taught in their mother tongue. What has the Department done, together with the Department of Education, to improve the standard of education at the township schools and the ensure instruction in their mother tongue, at least in the Early Childhood Development (ECD) stage.
Ms Bird replied that agreement has to be reached as to what the indicators are for improvement, and how the Department is bearing the responsibility. Minister Asmal announced after the December 2001 Matric results that a pass rate of 60% had been attained which is an improvement, even though the actual goal has not been reached. These improvements indicate that the education system it is moving in the right direction. Ms Bird informed Members that she is unable to give too much detail, because this is not her area of expertise. The pass rate has improved, so too has the quality of teaching and Maths and Science. This is not a short-term challenge, and does involve a lot of work.
Mr M Ramodike (UDM) stated that the presentation has referred to poor standards of education and “bantu education” which was characterised by an inferior syllabus for black students. The HRDS has since been adopted, and does it include one syllabus for all South African schools?
Ms Bird replied that the Constitution provides that Minister Asmal is responsible for devising the syllabus and standards for the schooling system, which has been done via a number of policy documents. It also aims to implement stability for the schooling system, and therefore the syllabus has been put in place. It is a Schedule 6 matter and the provinces do therefore have a degree of space within which to operate.
Secondly, Mr Ramodike stated that the presentation also mentioned the social partners of the Department involved in the HRDS, especially the Department of Provincial and Local Government. He requested clarity on the extent to which the labour movement is involved in the HRDS and the overall implementation of the strategy. It seems that conflicting statements have been made by COSATU in this regard.
Ms Bird responded that the labour market is extremely involved in the implementation of the HRDS, especially the trade union movements that are directly represented on the SETA to both identify the problems and devise the Skills Development Strategy (SDS) for that particular sector. The social partners are also extensively represented on the advisory bodies that advise the Minister of the strategies to be adopted and implemented.
Mr S Pillay (DP) also congratulated Ms Bird on her promotion and requested an overall indication of the budget of the HRDS.
The DG responded that a budget has not been allocated to the HRDS specifically because it is an integrated programme spanning different government departments, and the Department and the Department of Education are the leading departments.
Secondly, Mr Pillay stated that the increasing of employee participation has been a problem for employers, and they have also found it difficult to provide training. How does the Department plan to monitor its implementation, because it does not appear to have sufficient inspectorate personnel to properly perform this function?
The DG replied that the lifelong learning objective and its monitoring does not rely on inspectors for its implementation. The lifelong learning concept has been adjusted as part of the SDS and is supported by the Department’s social partners, such as the Department of Education and South African business, who are all committed to its smooth implementation. Yet a culture does exist in which most enterprises poach rather than train personnel. The SDS ensures that everyone shares in the paying of levies and training of people, so that South Africa might benefit and ensure a cadre of people in the labour market that are highly trained, competent and available to contribute to the growth of the economy.
Mr Pillay is correct in contending that monitoring mechanisms are not in place and therefore the SETA board has to ensure that the social partners actually govern the activities of the SETA’s, which monitors the implementation of the lifelong learning objective. The SETA’s are required to develop sector skills plans that identify skills and sustain growth, and training then has occur so that the SDS can take place.
The Department has also entered into Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the different SETA’s, indicating the targets each SETA is expected to deliver on each year, and tied to this are the monthly meetings with the SETAs to monitor compliance with the MOU. The SETA also has to submit an annual report to Parliament detailing exactly what it has done and is currently engaged. With all these measures in place there is no need to use inspectors to enforce the lifelong learning objective.
Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) requested clarity on the bursaries issued as outlined on the slide dealing with the second strategic objective. The reason is that it is already September, and how will the current Grade 12 students be alerted to the bursaries on offer and the criteria that have to be met in order to qualify? It is suggested that the Parliamentary constituency offices of the Members of Parliament be used to disseminate this information, because those offices are flooded with students that do not have this information and cannot locate this strategy. Perhaps the Department should devise and implement a programme to visit schools and provide this information.
Ms Bird replied that a National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) office has been established at each tertiary institution only and people would then have to approach the financial officers at those universities. The NRF only manages post-graduate students.
Furthermore, Mr Mshudulu stated that, with regard to scarce skills, the impression is created that the South African workplace managers have priority in deciding how the work would be organised. How do capacity building measures empower employees in this regard, because even shop stewards have no influence over the manner in which skills are organised? He requested clarity on who controls the design of skills in the workplace.
Ms Bird replied that while trade union participation in this area is not made mandatory in any piece of legislation, it was nevertheless recommended that a training committee be established to determine the skills plan of the workplace, and which workers will be targeted. They would then act in an advisory manner rather than in a mandatory fashion. This will be discussed further with the social partners.
Ms N Ntwanambi (ANC) [Western Cape] referred to the question posed earlier by Mr Pillay with regard to the support programmes and suggested that a bias should operate in favour of those that have been hard done by the Apartheid regime, especially women. This should be added to those programmes.
The DG replied that the HRDS indicates clearly that one of the key objectives is to reduce the levels of inequality inherited from the apartheid regime. It cannot be said that the SDS does not have specify targets in this regard and that the matter is left to chance and improvement may not even happen. The SDS provides that 85% of those trained should be black, and black here is used elastically to include the Coloured and Indian population groups. As women carried the biggest burden during those times, the HRDS provides that 54% of those that benefit from the SDS should be women, and there is therefore a particular bias in favour of women in the strategy. The HRDS also provides that at least 4% of those trained should be disabled persons, and thus no-one has been omitted.
This will be monitored, and shifts will be made to effect improvements, should the need arise. The Minister will be attending a conference in September in order to identify current performance as compared to the 2001 targets, comparative analysis, robust debate and feedback from other African countries on the problems they have experienced in this regard and how the problems can be resolved.
Secondly, Ms Ntwanambi stated that, with regard to the involvement of NGO’s in the ECD projects, most of the training provided in the townships are conducted by NGO’s. Are these funded by the Department, or is it the Department of Social Development alone that provides such funding?
Ms Bird responded that, at local level, it is possible for NGO’s to approach the Department for funding for a particular project that will have a positive impact on local economic development in that area. Certain criteria would also have to be met, including that it should be possible to demonstrate that that people would be economically empowered after the training. The Department has currently set the target that 75% of those trained would have to be involved in particular Department initiatives or some income generating project.
Dr D Conroy (NNP) [Gauteng] agreed that South Africa needs employees with specialised skills, especially in view of the development of the economic growth needed. A water-tight system is needed where young South Africans are trained in the necessary skills and are then afforded the first opportunity to be appointed to positions of employment before the foreign worker.
The DG responded that this is a tricky matter because the HRDS does not suggest that only women and black and disabled persons are to benefit, but states that all South Africans who need training and skills will get them. The HRDS also further indicates that targets will be identified for the previously disadvantaged and those who need such training and skills, and therefore even white male and female South Africans would qualify here and benefit from the strategy.
The Department cannot influence the employer on who to employ, as the employer has to make this decision. The Department presented the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCOEA) to Parliament, which is aimed at preventing unfair discrimination in the workplace, so that the Constitution is taken into the workplace. That legislation also indicates that those who were previously prevented from qualifying for employment now have the opportunity to qualify. Those who had been prevented from entering certain levels of employment, even though they are qualified, should now be advantaged. These measures have notoriously become known as “affirmative action” and gives preference to South Africans. It is interpreted, in terms of the previous dispensation, as a legislative intervention.
Prince N Zulu (IFP) stated that the focus of the matter is skills development, and it was mentioned during the presentation that the Immigration Act would play a role in importing skills from foreign jurisdictions. There will come a time when South Africa will reach a saturation point with regard to skills development and the import of skills, and then who will take control, when it does occur in the future?
Mr Z Kolweni (ANC) [North-West] requested further clarity regarding the extent to which skilled South African employees are sought after in foreign countries.
The DG replied to these questions by stating that the labour market is not defined in terms of geographical borders, but those employees with portable skills do move around the world, in the same way as capital does. This is due to the fact that everyone is chasing the best possible returns. In this regard teachers and nurses are the most popular because they are presented with the opportunity to earn pounds and dollars. Doctors are also popular here because they have to pay back their student loans, and they can pay this back in a far shorter period of time when earning pounds or dollars than rands. There is thus very little to be done other than increasing their wages and improving their conditions of employment.
South Africa does recruit foreign employees who possess skills needed in this country and is done to grow South Africa, as embodied in the HRDS. Clearly one cannot recruit those skills which South Africa already has a high concentration of, only those lacking and needed in South Africa would be sought after. The HRDS does this. One cannot prevent growth of the national economy by clinging on to xenophobic tendencies. Yet it also has to be ensured that South Africa does not have an oversupply of skills held by foreigners who then compete with South African employees for these jobs, and the position is then offered to the foreigner.
Thus a balance is needed here and it has to be addressed via a joint effort by the Department, the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Trade and Industry. A programme has been devised that classifies precisely what these scarce skills are.
The Acting Chair informed Members that he had worked in the Metal and Engineering Industry for many years and fought for skills recognition in that industry, and such recognition seems to be absent from the presentation. Furthermore, the latest trend in the industry is to employ matriculants, yet many of those already occupying those positions, although they already possess the necessary skills, have not passed matric. Will they be overlooked, or would they be incorporated in the HRDS?
The DG responded that the HRDS does recognise prior learning, and failure to recognise this was a major weakness in the previous dispensation, because it ignored those workers who were doing the work although they were not certified. It would not be right to require such workers to attend skills classes “as though they [were] children” without the necessary experience, and it is assumed that the adult worker is a reservoir of skills. This is then considered in the HRDS.
The Acting Chair stated further that the MERSETA has said that it has identified a company that will serve as a pilot model in which it will train people in the proper skills at a reduced income. Yet the company has stated that it is uncertain as to what will happen to those people once they have completed the training, because the company is not obliged to employ them, but is only obligated to provide them with training.
The DG replied that the aim here is to break the spiral of people who are not able to find employment due to a lack of work experience, and who do not have work experience because they cannot find employment. They would be given the opportunity to receive basic workplace training and it is expected that, by the end of 2002, they would be in a better position to get jobs, whether with a current or a future employer. These workers would also be afforded the necessary experience or networking tools to be able to then establish their own business, and this is the intervention that is currently being addressed.
If it is made obligatory for the enterprise to employ the learner at the end of the learnership period, the enterprises would not respond favourably, because they are placed with the burden of a person it might not need. Thus a win-win situation has to be arrived at.
The Acting Chair suggested that the Department consider using the labour centres to post a list of all those that have completed the learnership programme and who now seek employment. This would seem to address the problem.
The DG thanked the Acting Chair for the suggestion, and informed him that the Department does this in the labour centres as a matter of course. Each labour centre has an employment services section that registers such persons, and often employers contact these centres in search of employees that fit a particular profile. The learnership scheme is, however, a new initiative, and efforts are being made to address unemployment.
Ms Nkuna asked whether this situation is really functional, and is the Department happy with it? This is cause for concern because the place of employment to which the person is deployed might not be attractive or that person’s ideal job, and is it therefore functional to merely post the list?
The DG asked whether Ms Nkuna is referring to the labour centre or the place of employment.
Ms Nkuna explained that she is referring to the latter, and reiterated her concern whether the use of the labour centres is a sustainable manner of addressing unemployment and ensuring that the person finds a suitable place of employment.
The DG replied that those potential employees’ experiences vary in this regard and there are instances in which it does work out, and there are those cases in which it does not. One of the biggest challenges in this regard is the problem with the supply and demand of skills because the reality of the situation is that there is currently a higher supply than demand, especially at the low and unskilled levels. Some employers do take advantage of this by not providing workers with reasonable conditions of service, because the workers are a dime a dozen. As long as this situation continues, the current discrepancy will occur in future. The Department has attempted to address this matter via the amendments to the BCEA and Labour Relations Act (LRA) and it is hoped that a culture of voluntary compliance with the labour laws will prevail, so that workers are treated more humanely.
Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) requested clarity on the mechanisms in place to ensure the budget is spent properly, and to check the spending objectives.
The DG replied that the HRDS was adopted by the Cabinet Lekgotla at national level, and Ministers of Education and Labour were elected to lead this process. Other departments, such as the Departments of Home Affairs, Arts, Science, Culture and Technology and Trade and Industry all have a role to play in the co-ordinated plan. The two lead Ministers then have to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the progress it has made with regard to the HRDS, and there is thus a monitoring mechanism in place. The economic cluster also has to submit a report at each lekgotla.
This is a critical point because these are the mechanisms in place at national level, yet it does not refer to provincial checks and balances. This is because there are weaknesses at provincial level and the Ministers now agree that there is a need to devise a mechanisms for the provinces as well, so that such monitoring does not only take place at national level.
Ms Nkuna stated that this discussion would better prepare Members for the matters to be dealt with during the upcoming provincial week.
Briefing on Labour Market Trends
The DG informed Members that the subject of this presentation is a broad one and the delegation would be guided by questions from Members on specific aspects, rather than detailing the entire text of what has been prepared in the presentation. Thus introductory remarks will instead be made, and Members would then be able to zoom in on specific issues during the discussion.
The fourth slide entitled “(c) Labour market” refers to structural unemployment, and this is a result of the effect of improved technology in the workplace as it leads to retrenchment. It should be noted that the statistics provided on the slide dealing with “Employment Trends” do not include those informal traders who, despite running a small often domestic business, still consider themselves to be unemployed.
The following slide deals with the “Characteristics of the Unemployed” and it does not include those people who want the opportunity to receive further training so that they may then move on to their job of choice, and would probably accept any job offered to them. Thus a “one size fits all” approach to unemployment cannot be adopted. The 71,9% indicated on the slide clearly illustrates the need to develop and implement a youth-biased programme. It then has to be asked whether fifteen year olds would prefer to receive training over a period of time so that they may obtain a suitable position of employment, or whether they would prefer to receive an education. The 64,6% figure indicates the rural-urban divide and the difference in infrastructure development due to the legacy of Apartheid. The HRDS aims to provide the 93,3% with employment because only tertiary learners are currently being financed, and those who have not passed Grade 12 are not being included.
The “Major problems in the Labour Market” slide includes domestic workers who do live in poverty, despite the fact that they are employed, and seeks to provide a tool for their employers so that their services may be retained and given a reasonable salary. The employer should also be able to pay for the time that s/he can afford to employ the domestic worker and the period for which the services of the domestic worker are needed. This will enable the domestic worker to use the rest of the time to earn extra income by working for other employers.
It should be noted that, with regard to the third point on the slide entitled “Approach to Labour Market Policy”, the recent labour law amendments were approved, and several provisions have been inserted to offer better protection to both small businesses and strikes against retrenchment. The bargaining councils would become relevant here.
Mr N Clelland-Stokes (DP) referred to the statement made by the DG that unemployment remains a problem despite growth and investment. However, a 3% growth rate only takes the country half-way as a recent study has indicated that a 6% growth rate would only enable the government to start ridding itself of the unemployment problem. The Democratic Party believes that the labour laws are inherently rigid and inflexible, and the current problems cannot simply be explained away by referring to supply and demand.
The DG responded that he does not know who conducted the study referred to by Mr Clelland-Stokes, but the 1995 LRA and the 1997 BCOEA has tried to deal with rigidity inherited from the pervious labour law regime. Yet upon implementation certain areas of rigidity were identified as unintended consequences of the labour laws passed after 1994, and the most recent amendments have identified some of those rigidities. When those amendments were passed in the National Assembly it was agreed that it provides for a better dispensation, and it was decided that the Department would implement what is currently available. There will be mistakes, but with the necessary feedback they will be corrected.
Secondly, Mr Clelland-Stokes stated that the DG also said that it was suggested to the Department that grants be paid to those unemployed in an effort to alleviate their situation, and it is contended that employing the Basic Income Grant (BIG) would take South Africa out of its current spiral. Has the Department looked at this matter, because the Taylor Report has been released which deals with this matter and the Department of Social Development also has a role to play here. Yet the BIG should not be aimed primarily at enabling people to buy groceries, but also to generally alleviate their situation.
The DG replied that the Department has not yet adopted a position on the BIG and the government alone has formulated a position, which is in turn held by the Department of Social Development. Mr Clelland-Stokes should contact that Department for further clarity on this matter.
Thirdly, Mr Clelland-Stokes referred to the 71,9% provided in the presentation and stated that an independent Sanlam fund had been established to address this matter yet, despite having departmental representation on its board, the fund has performed “even less than dismal”. Has any progress been made here in employing the 71,9%?
The DG replied that especially those closer to the fifteen year mark seem to prefer training rather than accepting a low-level menial job, and the SDS targets then amongst others. A strategy is therefore in place to deal with this “71,9%”, but the matter will not be resolved via a quick-fix. Mr Clelland-Stokes is correct in stating that the fund is an independent institution, as it has been registered under Section 21 of the Companies Act and therefore has a board of directors who govern al its activities. The fund is held accountable to the Minister, since the President shifted the fund from the jurisdiction of the Minister of Finance, and it therefore has to report to Parliament. Yet the Department does not direct the fund with regard to the projects which it has to fund, because this would undermine the mandate declared by its governing statute
The DG stated that he would not be responding to the concern raised with the fund’s dismal performance, unless Mr Clelland-Stokes wished to raise a particular concern regarding its performance. A report has been compiled on the fund’s activities and it can be made available to Members, and questions regarding its performance can then be addressed. The Department is still learning to operate the fund since taking over from the Department of Finance, and the fact that the Department does have representation on its board does not mean that the Department can then be held responsible for the activities of the fund.
Mr Pillay suggested that it has been stated many times that the Apartheid regime would have destroyed the country had it not been stopped. The Department is requested to provide Members with information on the timeframes and plans it has devised and implemented to eradicate the major effects of Apartheid, the costs involved and the types of skills needed from the government to effect this. Furthermore, what can people do in general to ensure that the Apartheid legacy is eradicated?
Ms Nkuna stated that the DG could offer a broad answer or outline a response to this question, and he could also reply in writing.
The Acting Chair stated that Mr Pillay is asking the DG to explain how long it would take to eradicate the legacy of Apartheid, which is an extreme question. Members are urged to confine themselves to reasonable questions because Parliament has passed laws on many processes aimed at eradicating the Apartheid legacy, and it will take a long time to achieve this, even with all the proper laws in place.
The DG replied that it is safe to say that there a number of interventions which have been put in place by government to deal with this matter and it is therefore a complex matter which involves a range of factors. The factors include problems with growth, poverty, job creation and access to basic services, and all have a country-wide effect, and it is also a “government-wide issue” that one department alone cannot be expected to respond to.
The DG then provided a few examples of such measures taken. The first is a macro-economic reform strategy co-ordinated by the economic cluster of government, which identifies specific sectors that need support for growth. The second is the management strategy devised by the Department of Trade and Industry. The third is the Department’s HRDS strategy discussed earlier by Ms Bird, which identifies the need to train people so that the economy might grow. The fourth is the rural development strategy, which identifies central nodes as pilots for interventions. The fifth is the urban renewal strategy, which has targets areas such as Alexandria and aims to provide better services. It will take a long time before some impact is felt.
The President mentioned during the July Lekgotla that South Africa would now need to focus on employment, and an environment has to be created that makes jobs available for South Africans. This would operate together with the Vuko zenzile campaign declared by the President, so that means of ensuring sustainable income may be arrived at. This project is underway, and an implementation strategy is being developed. All government initiatives have not been exhausted and the aggregate effect of those mentioned will, in time, reverse the tide of 350 years of bad labour policy.
Ms E Thabethe (ANC) referred to the efforts being made by the Department to eradicate the fragmention in the labour market due to its background, and contended that the Department does have a better system in place. Also, based on employment equity reports received from various companies, South Africa is on track to address the inequalities inherited from the Apartheid regime. The country has moved from a culture that did not recognise workers rights to one which now ensures and protects such rights.
The DG replied that the Minister will release a set of findings in consultation with the Employment Equity Commission in October 2002, and this will detail the Department’s performance during the period October 2001 to October 2002. It is thus preferable to postpone discussions on the shifts in the market till that date. Yet the current statistics are still “horrific” and indicate that 78% of those occupying management positions are male, the majority of these are white, the number of black South Africans occupying these positions are dismal, the number of women in these positions is even worse and those occupied by disabled persons are much worse. It thus paints a horrible picture, but the report will provide further clarity.
Secondly, Ms Thabethe requested clarity on the role of NEDLAC in attempting to understand the economic issues at play, in order to ensure that they are not skewed to one particular sector but rather benefit the entire economy and the labour market in general.
The DG responded that NEDLAC has done lots of wonderful work in this regard, with the result that the extent of social change has deepened extensively so that the adversity between business and labour has been reduced. This has allowed the needs of the country as a whole to be put first, rather than the needs of a particular project or sector. The Growth and Development Summit that will take place in 2003 will be a major test in this regard, and it was decided to postpone it to the first quarter of 2003 because of all the summits taking place during 2002. At that summit discussions will centre on arriving at trade agreements to identify better formulae to enable growth and investments.
Ms Thabethe furthermore requested clarity on the implementation of the “Fifteen Point Programme of the Department” outlined in the presentation.
The DG replied that the first point of the Fifteen Point Programme, as contained in the presentation, is to review the current labour market policy and there is no reason for not conducting another review based on the experiences learnt from ground level. The Department has succeeded in providing a flexible tool so that existing institutions do not have to come to Parliament to change labour laws, but can instead approach the bargaining councils and the CCMA. This is therefore not “a one-off thing”, but involves reporting and feedback.
The annual report which was filed by the Minister on 31 August 2002 should also be consulted in this regard, as required by the PFMA, as it details the progress made by the Department with regard to the Fifteen Point Programme since 2001.
Ms Nkuna requested clarity on the situation in which a black worker and a white worker, each occupying the same position and having the same training, both apply for a promotion, yet the white worker receives it.
The DG replied that this matter would be dealt with via the Employment Equity Act, and it provides that incidences of unfair discrimination occurring on the workplace could be declared a dispute and referred to the CCMA, and the case could ultimately be adjudicated.
The Acting Chair suggested that the community is not provided with sufficient information to allow it to access the fund referred to earlier, and perhaps Parliament should play a role here is enabling such access.
Furthermore, it might be important for Members to get a better understanding of the situation so that they can better inform their constituencies, and the matter regarding the BIG as raised earlier by Mr Clelland-Stokes would have to be revisited. The Acting Chair stated that he has a different view on this matter and contended that the R100 grant is not sufficient even for groceries, yet this is another debate.
One of the subjects being discussed at the WSSD is job creation, and efforts should have been made there to interact with small businesses, especially those from rural villages. Parliament should have prepared South Africans to take hold of the opportunity by informing them of means to promote their business, such as the printing of business cards.
Mr Mshudulu requested clarity on how the economics cluster could look deeper into an environment that seems to be changing constantly, because the government invests in the skills of people yet the industry changes so rapidly, as with the IT industry. Even those skills that are possessed now have become irrelevant, and this is a challenge.
Mr R Moropa (ANC) added that the IT industry is changing is at such a pace that the people cannot be properly trained, because once they are trained those skills then become irrelevant. State intervention is needed here at some stage.
The DG replied that it would be foolish to think that all those in whom the government has invested will necessarily obtain jobs. A labour intensive strategy is needed here to increase employment rates.
Secondly, Mr Mshudulu stated that the problems with the “unemployability” as inherited from the Apartheid regime are too broadly framed, and agreed with the DG that the statistical data has to be broken down.
The DG responded that people have to be equipped will rare skills so that they may operate at a higher level, and the Department has to submit an annual report on the progress made on this matter. The various SETA’s would then have to set the target for their respective sectors.
Mr Durand stated that the University of the Free State has released a study which indicated that 20% of all domestic workers could possibly lose their jobs under the new dispensation. This is due to the fact that the Department did not make people aware of the monthly rate at which they could employ domestic workers, but only mentioned the new minimum wage. Most cannot afford to pay the new minimum wage and would rather pay the monthly rate. It does not make sense if the Department does not train both domestic workers and farm workers so that they may be multi-skilled, as this would enable them to obtain better jobs.
The DG responded that this is a matter of pure conjecture. This would be regulated by the Services SETA, and 20% of the “top slice of the levy” would be utilised to train domestic workers. He would, however, be prepared to give a briefing at some later date on domestic workers specifically.
Mr R Moropa (ANC) stated that there is also a problem with the mobility of unemployed people with regard to the provincial spread, because they cannot be properly traced in provinces that are not as highly congested as Gauteng.
The DG replied that Gauteng will not be focused on exclusively.
Secondly, Mr Moropa suggested that NEDLAC seems to be involved primarily with the narrow economic interests of each of its members rather than the national agenda, with the result that it is unable to make an impact and put matters on the table that would benefit the nation.
The DG responded that the NEDLAC chambers deal with particular issues, but at the Executive Committee level the Secretary General and Ministers do deal with issues affecting the national economy.
Thirdly, Mr Moropa suggested that the unemployment levels seem to be increasing, yet the DG stated earlier that the white counterparts remain better off. How can this be? Is it due to the market forces alone? If this is the case, Parliament would have to pass legislation to address this.
The DG replied that foreign jurisdictions were consulted here, a comparative analysis was done and the ILO was consulted, and it is not due to market forces. A balance has to be created between market forces and legislative regulation.
Ms Nkuna informed all present that there is not enough time available to allow the DG to sufficiently respond to the remainder of the questions posed, and the meeting would now have to be adjourned.
The following questions were not answered by the DG:
Mr Mshudulu asked the DG to inform Members of the problems being encountered in implementing it.
Mr Moropa contended that at age fifteen one cannot really be regarded as unemployed, because proper training is needed.
Mr Durand asked whether the Department is planning an audit of all the skills in the market, and whether it has devised a plan to transfer those skills to those people in the market who need them.
Mr Moropa requested information on the experience of companies throughout the rest of the continent in this regard.
The meeting was adjourned.
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