Inclusive Future of Work: South Africa

Country brief prepared for the 1st EWG under the 2019 Brazilian presidency of the BRICS

Creating a human-centred future of work for all South Africans will require a balance between tackling the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality within the context of rapid technological advances, adapting to climate change and achieving higher economic growth rates. South Africa is among the most unequal countries in the world; unemployment, given its intersection with inequality and poverty, is the biggest challenge South Africa faces for achieving decent work and social justice.
Addressing the high levels of unemployment (especially amongst youth) and improving basic education and skills development for the future of work are key priorities. Moreover, supporting enterprises and workers in their transition from the informal to the formal economy in order to achieve decent work and higher living standards, while managing labour migration and strengthening representative labour market institutions, will also be at the core of creating an inclusive future of work.
At the same time, however, paid work will likely become less formal and more insecure for many workers. Rapid technological progress will affect segments of society across South Africa very differently, depending on their readiness for the production processes of the future. At the same time, opportunities for the better educated who have digital literacy skills and access to digital technology will increase. An important consideration in dealing with these challenges to equality is whether labour market institutions and representative organisations are fit for purpose and are able to adequately address the challenges faced by workers and employers in both the formal and informal economy.