The committee researchers presented a report that analysed the State of the Nation Address and its implications for the Portfolio Committee on Labour. The document looked at the impact of the Address on Labour focusing specifically on accelerating economic growth, increased productivity and efficiency, skills development, adult basic education and training, small to medium and micro enterprises as well as vulnerable groups.
The Committee discussed issues such as child labour, merging the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) with the Further Education and Training (FET) project, the relevancy of certain skills in the market, adult literacy and engaging with the Minister and institutions about certain issues such as the Compensation Commission.
The researchers agreed that a whole range of labour infrastructure had been provided and developed since 1994. Members would need to look at the relevancy of the infrastructure and the impacts that were made. Many institutes were in possession of resources and funding but their coordination and effectiveness would have to be scrutinized. This was where the National Human Resource Development Strategy would have to play a role. Institutions should not be moving in different directions, they should be working together. Likewise the Committee should engage with JIPSA to look at the work that they did, their plans, vision and how the organization engaged with stakeholders.
Ms Sindisiwe Mkhize (Committee Researcher) said that the 2008 State of the Nation Address by President Mbeki did not introduce new policy shifts; it was a continuation of the previous year’s policy initiatives such as driving employment and increasing the rate of economic growth. The Address made reference to the term “Business Unusual” which meant moving forward in terms of government efficiency and increasing the rate of service delivery.
“Business Unusual” impacted on Labour by accelerating the rate of economic growth and development, speeding up skills development interventions through SETAs and on-the-job-training for professional graduates, improving on adult literacy programmes through adult basic education and training (ABET) and massive campaigns such as Kha Ri Gude, accelerating the pace through which training is provided to assist cooperatives and small enterprises, the introduction of preferential procurement for small medium and micro-enterprises, intensifying the absorption of the youth in to the National Youth Service programme and upscaling the Expanded Public Works Programme to maintain public infrastructure.
By accelerating economic growth, the strategic objective was to encourage growth in the first economy thus creating employment. Other objectives included addressing the needs of poor people in the second economy, promoting social security in an effort to contribute to poverty alleviation and addressing racial and gender inequality. The Department had developed and was in the process of implementing the Employment Services System for South Africa (ESSA) which was aimed at identifying, matching and responding to supply and demand in the labour market.
By increasing productivity and efficiency, the Address did not introduce any policy shifts. However, it proposed a new perspective on how state functions were conducted by calling on public servants to “renew a pledge” of efficiency and dedication.
On the matter of skills development, there was a new Skills Development Amendment Bill that tried to integrate new proposals for SETA performance.
The Department of Labour had tried to meet targets for but the project still needed more attention. The State of the Nation Address looked at increasing the rate at which adults were train in various skills. The Kha Ri Gude was a massive campaign from the Department of Education to accelerate literacy rates within the country.
Ms Mkhize spoke of Small, Medium and Micro-Enterprises (SMME) and the direct interventions that were needed. The Department of Labour had programmes that spoke directly to SMMEs by having by-laws, which checked that SMMEs were given preferential procurement within municipalities.
With vulnerable groups, the Government aimed to increase the number of black entrepreneurs, especially in the agricultural sector. In terms of Agriculture, employment was decreasing. Ms Mkhize felt that the agricultural sector was neglected in terms of development. The Government had only recently realized the sector’s potential value to employ both youth and adults. This was an opportunity to provide the skills that were needed by the economy. The youth accounted for the largest percentage of the unemployed, at 75%. Women would also receive preferential status in terms of procurement. Child labour issues would also receive more attention, as it was a heavily neglected area.
The Chair agreed that very little was done about child labour issues. She also agreed that there was a lot of potential for employment opportunities in the Agricultural sector. The Sector needed to be looked at in terms of skills development and more funding was needed. With regard to SMMEs, the Committee would have to look at what they were actually funding. The Chair proposed the merge of SETAs and Further Education and Training (FET) projects or doing away with SETAs completely and funding FETs.
Ms A Dreyer (DA) noted that the Report was balanced, comprehensive and gave a good overview. It seemed as though policies were in place and the money was allocated properly, but there were issues with spending the funding in the implementation of the programs. As an oversight committee, they had a crucial role to play in seeing that the Department implemented the policies and that the money was spent properly.
Mr M Nene (ANC) noted that there was a problem with some of the SETAs. The Committee needed to discuss the idea of the merge with the Minister and related Departments. As the Committee, they needed to check that the skills acquired by people were relevant. There were people who were trained and in possession of skills, yet according to reports there was still a shortage of skills and unemployment issues. Members would have to look at what skills the market actually needed so there was a coordination of structures. The Committee would also have to find people to identify opportunities in all areas.
Mr M Mzondeki warned that there was a possibility that Parliament would close early this year due to the 2009 elections and that the Committee would have to prioritise and address matters of urgency. Members would have to come up with a proper plan of action for dealing with those problems.
The Chair agreed and stated that there were too many issues to focus on and very little time. The Committee would not have the opportunity to push the Department’s program. She suggested that the researchers find the issues that were most urgent and inform the Committee of them.
Local people were killing foreigners because it seemed to them as if the foreigners were taking over the country and not paying any tax. The Chair felt that the Department of Labour needed to assist with the problem by helping those involved in small businesses so that their ventures were not taken over by foreigners. She wanted to know the number of foreign businesses in each municipality.
Ms M Twala (ANC) addressed the issue of child labour. The research report showed that it was the Committee’s responsibility to become familiar with child labour laws. She asked for clarification.
Mr Ekhsaan Jawoodeen (Senior Researcher) stated that the Committee would have to focus on the review of the National Human Resource Development Strategy and the programmes covered by the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills of South Africa (JIPSA). Different departments would come together to look at unemployment and issues of poverty.
Ms Mkhize stated that in terms of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there were specific programs that looked at child labour. The Department of Labour also had a specific programme that focused on child labour. She would see how far South Africa was in terms of the international standards on child labour.
The Chair agreed that adult literacy needed improvement. She asked for clarification on the campaign that the Department of Education was doing, called “Kha Ri Gude”.
Ms Mkhize explained that it was a massive literacy campaign that was funded by the Department of Education with the Department of Labour. The project could also take the form of road shows.
The Chair asked if it was possible to engage the Minister on the issue of merging SETAs with FET colleges. She also wanted to discuss the National Youth Commission. The Committee needed the Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (ASGISA) Annual Report, as it would assist them with skills development.
Ms Dreyer commented that the main message of the research report was that the Committee should be vigilant in its oversight function. There was a major problem with the Compensation Commission. There were numerous complaints by the workers but the problem could not be resolved. This showed that there was a departmental entity that was not functioning well. The Committee would need to look at those government entities that were not delivering on their mandate.
Mr Jawoodeen stated that a whole range of labour infrastructure was provided and developed since 1994. Members would need to look at the relevancy of the infrastructure and the impacts that were made. Many institutes were in possession of resources and funding but their coordination and effectiveness would have to be scrutinized. This is where the National Human Resource Development Strategy would have to play a role. Institutions should not be moving in different directions, they should be working together. It was his opinion that the Committee engaged with JIPSA to look at the work that they did, their plans, vision and how the organization engaged with stakeholders. He encouraged the Committee to engage with other departments and the Minister if they were concerned about certain issues.
The Chair agreed that there were many structures in place but that the institutions were moving in different directions. It would be of great assistance to the Committee if all the institutions could sit down and agree on the direction in which they would all move.
The meeting was adjourned.
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