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LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
8 November 2005
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION (ILO) CONFERENCE: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT; COMMITTEE REPORT ON SECTOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING AUTHORITY: ADOPTION
Chairperson: Ms O Kasienyane (ANC)
Documents handed out:
LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
Department of Labour presentation on ILO Conference
Committee Report on Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) [available shortly at Committee Reports]
The Department of Labour provided a presentation on the 93rd International Labour Organisation conference held in Geneva. Five committees dealt with important issues such as finances and compliance with stipulated criteria. The adoption of a common position for Africa was vital to promote African interests. The developed versus developing world debate dominated proceedings as did the controversial issue of youth unemployment. Small business development would play a key role in generating much-needed employment.
The Committee reviewed and adopted their Committee Report on Sector Education and Training Authorities and the Department gave its input on it. Certain problems within each Sector Education and Training Authority were highlighted and learnerships would be promoted amongst stakeholders. Communication campaigns with communities would be enhanced. Appropriate research would identify areas of scarce skills.
Members asked various questions including the accepted definition to describe youth unemployment, occupational health and safety issues, the supply of graduates to workplace demand, the role of co-operatives in SETA activities, the level of community participation within SETAs and the important role of career guidance to prevent irrelevant study.
International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference: Department of Labour presentation
Dr V Mkosana (Director-General) presented a framework of the workings of the International Labour Organisation and provided specific information on the 93rd Conference held in June in Geneva. The Conference is the highest determining body of the Organization. The ILO scrutinised the compliance of member states to stipulated criteria. Three members of Parliament accompanied the delegation to Geneva. Five committees dealt with important issues arising from previous debate. The establishment of a common African position was crucial for the African participants. South Africa was involved in the Finance committee. A budget was passed that focused on African development. The Application of Standards Committee investigates member state’s compliance with conventions and ratified treaties. The position of developing countries within the committee had to be rethought. Flexibility in working hours was a new development. A balance between job security and flexibility in employment practices had to be attained. Youth unemployment remained a major concern that required an integrated approach to resolve. Proper research of labour market needs was needed to identify effective responses. Education policies within respective countries had to be evaluated. 93% of all jobs created in Africa originated from small and micro enterprises. Co-operatives would be considered to facilitate employment creation. A Youth Employment Network would be established to drive enhanced youth employment.
The Chairperson stated that the presentation had empowered Members on the workings of the ILO and would assist in the preparation of the Committee’s report.
Mr B Mkongi (ANC) agreed that Africa urgently required a common position to solidify efforts to improve working conditions within the continent. He asked which definition was in use to identify youth unemployment globally. Clarity was sought on the broad challenges underlying unemployment in general. The use of the ILO as a platform to attack certain countries should be discouraged.
Mr G Anthony (ANC) asked why the United States and Britain had sought to reduce the total ILO
Budget. Further information was requested on youth unemployment problems within the developed world. He asked whether a new Convention on Health and Public Safety was to be developed. Members should interact with the Department of Labour to arrange participation with specific African projects.
Ms S Rajbally (MF) stated that research was needed to identify employment opportunities for the youth and to direct students towards sectors with employment potential. Supply of graduates should be matched to workplace demand. Co-operatives had to be considered as a realistic vehicle to alleviate unemployment. Political will was vital to ensure their success.
Mr L Maduna (ANC) asked whether the Department communicated with all stakeholders to devise an appropriate response to the challenges of youth unemployment. A united position could assist in generating positive developments.
Mr Virgil Seafield (Department Manager: Employment Standards) stated that Occupational Health and Safety conventions were outdated and had to be updated to meet current realities and maintain relevance.
Dr Florus Prinsloo (Executive Manager: SETA Performance Management) added that a framework was in place to address youth development issues and ensure that skills were available to replace the aging workforce. Youth initiatives were involved in all learner categories. The Department had produced a document that identified scarce skills and all SETAs would monitor the imposition of relevant training programmes to meet demand.
Mr Mkosana declared that certain developments in technology also contributed to the irrelevance of some conventions that necessitated an update. Relevant Departments would convene to formulate a concerted strategy to deal with appropriate skills training. Training would be focused around clearly identified growth areas within the economy. The social partners were involved in debates and conferences to facilitate a broader involvement of community issues. In future, the ILO conference would consider the seating arrangement that separated government, labour and business. The US and UK positions were due to prevailing global policy issues between the developed and developing worlds. Savings within the ILO would be spread amongst all member states and not confined solely to the developed world. Various international experiences such as Algeria and China provided key developmental pointers to assist other countries. For example, Algeria had enjoyed significant success in youth employment creation. China had engineered the removal of 50 million people out of poverty. Training resources were focused specifically on the younger generations.
South Africa used the ILO definition to describe unemployment. However, variations occurred globally and the definition would be reevaluated. The aging South African workforce and a drop in future life expectancy due to Aids were issues that would impact negatively on future labour productivity. The Department engaged with influential youth groups on a regular basis to formulate an effective youth development programme. An employment services system would be created to focus on work training and provide career guidance. The Department would be aware of vacancies within the entire local job market. The representation of the African position remained a concern. Relevant Departments had agreed to focus on the southern African region to produce a common position on key issues. The cancellation of African debt was perceived by the ILO as an important step in addressing problems of development.
Ms Rajbally asked whether the Kibbutz system as practised in Israel could not be successfully applied in southern Africa to create employment.
Mr Mkosana agreed that the Kibbutz model was highly effective and had produced products for export and valuable employment. South Africa would implement a version based on co-operatives to meet local requirements.
Mr S Mhkonto (Department Deputy Director-General ) stated that the basic conditions of employment regulations would be reevaluated after five years. The current minimum working week of 45 hours would not be altered at this stage. The Department would focus on creating new forms of employment to reduce unemployment.
Dr Mkosana concurred that the current minimum working hours would remain and the government was satisfied with the flexible approach to employment practices.
Mr Maduna sought to acknowledge the high-profile role played by the Director-General at the recent conference.
The Chairperson reiterated that the presentation would assist the Committee in producing a report of the conference. Nedlac was an important body that the Committee should support. The number of Committee delegates to the next conference would be negotiated in due course.
The Committee adopted the Department's Report.
Committee Report on the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA)
The Chairperson highlighted key points from the Committee Report such as the learnership guides for the unemployed, corporate governance within SETAs and private sector concerns remained regarding levies to respective SETAs.
Dr Prinsloo noted that the tax rebate scheme for employers engaged in learnerships would be reevaluated. A monitoring system was in place to ensure that savings were used to promote training rather than contribute to the profit margin.
Mr Mzondeki asked how access for the disabled to training initiatives could be improved. The Committee should note that certain employers were not participating in the learnership programme.
Dr Prinsloo stated that the Public Sector SETA was effective and would stand alone in the short term without Department control. The SETA was reliant on allocations from National Treasury. The role of learnerships would have to be promoted amongst relevant departments.
Ms Rajbally asked whether the SETA was open to community participation.
Mr Mgongi declared that short courses had to be discontinued in favour of more substantial training. The SETA should focus on junior management as a priority. Local Government should also be included within the scope of the SETA’s activities.
Dr Prinsloo responded that the SETA only dealt with national and provincial departments without venturing into the local government sphere. Communities and representative organisations were not involved in the SETA. Co-operatives should be established within each sector to assist in training initiatives. Small business development was a key component of each SETA’s activities. Spending patterns on training budgets within each SETA would be tracked to gauge efficacy. Short courses would not be included within training programmes. The SETA would pay more attention to junior management issues. The merger of the Public Sector SETA and the Local Government SETA was a possibility but not definite at this stage. Mechanisms were in place to encourage greater contributions from government departments towards the financial needs of SETAs. Fasett SETA had to improve its representation within provinces as agencies were used to promote the SETA’s activities.
Mr Maduna asked how the role of SETA’s within rural areas could be enhanced. The accreditation of service providers had to be improved and the general standard of delivery had to be dramatically enhanced.
Dr Prinsloo agreed that information sharing with the general public had to be improved and available facilities should be better utilised such as labour centers. Training programmes would be linked to provincial growth and development strategies. The Food and Beverage SETA was placed in the middle of the value chain between the agricultural sector and the retail sector. The Manufacturing and Engineering SETA possessed the largest revenue and sound leadership. Graduates from the various tertiary institutions struggled to find employment due to a lack of experience. Learnerships could assist in providing vital experience for graduates through SETA facilitation.
Mr Maduna asked whether the Department would assist tertiary institutions to identify areas of skills shortage within the economy in order to produce relevant training programmes.
Mr Mgongi stated that service providers should not have a conflict of interest within SETAs by sitting on respective Boards. Service providers should have a clear understanding of the dynamics within target communities. Artisans should be supported as part of a scarce skills training programme.
Mr Mzondeki noted that career guidance had to be focused on to avoid arbitrary study and irrelevant training.
Dr Prinsloo stated that the Department maintained close links with the Department of Education to plan relevant training curricula. The Human Resource Development Committee had produced a national strategy to provide relevant skills training. Research would identify suitable areas of focus. The Department had produced a scarce skills report that would assist in the process. The capacity of each SETA Board would be evaluated and relevant learning programmes instituted where necessary. Board members had to recuse themselves in cases of conflict of interest. Standards would be generated within each sector to create meaningful qualifications.
The Committee Report was adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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