President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday in KwaDukuza, KwaZulu Natal that South Africa’s best hope of becoming job market disruptors was to address inequality and strive towards making South Africa a more open economy.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the launch of a report entitled "The Future of Work", produced by the International Labour Organisation. He unpacked the recommendations of the report, which was informed by input from government, employers and trade unions in more than 110 ILO member states.
His address was a frank account of the situation which emerging economies found themselves in, where even though many have been touted as the latest frontiers of economic growth, inequality and poverty remained stubbornly high.
Ramaphosa said technological advances had consequences for workers and communities, such as increased insecurity and job losses. He said this led to protectionism and had consequences for future work processes.
Ramaphosa said he advocated for a “universal labour agreement” which would also include basic working conditions, such as an adequate living wage, limits work hours, as well as safety and health conditions in the workplace.
"We propose establishing a Universal Labour Guarantee that would guarantee fundamental workers’ rights, such as freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and freedom from forced and child labour," Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said such a guarantee would create a starting point from which to build labour market institutions appropriate for the 21st century world of work.
"It is in keeping with the spirit of these very interconnected times that we will continue to promote multilateralism and cooperation on forums such as the ILO – as the best and only way to prepare our countries for the world of work of the new century," said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said while working conditions improved in the 100 years of the ILO, many societies showed little regard to the rights of workers, even subjecting them to forced indenture, forms of servitude and bondage.