Address by the Minister of Labour, South Africa in response to the ILO Director-General’s report to the 101st session of the International Labour Conference, ILO programme implementation 2010-11, Geneva
12 Jun 2012President of the Conference
Director General of the ILO,
Representatives of Governments, Workers and Employers’ organisations,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
First allow me to congratulate you as the president of this session.
In October 2011, South Africa hosted the 12th African Regional Meeting of the ILO. In his address to that meeting, the outgoing Director-General, Mr Juan Somavia, stated, and I quote:
“I am in Africa – a continent I love and respect.
A region full of women and men who are my friends and colleagues, with whom I have shared ideals and struggles and have seen difficulties and deceptions together.
Sisters and brothers of all ages who are an integral part of my extended international family.
A family which believes that societies can be better, that positive change is possible and that ultimately, values, vision and a certain degree of volunteerism to make things happen can prevail over the moral indifference that pervades so much of our world today.
We know this is not easy to accomplish. We also know that if we do not, we will not be proud of the world we are leaving our children.”
The outgoing Director-General has indeed been a true friend of Africa. We will miss him. The most meaningful tribute that we can pay will be to pursue positive change in many of the programmatic areas that have been introduced into the work of the ILO during his tenure as Director-General. Many of these areas have a strong resonance with the social and development priorities of the continent and its people – the Decent Work Agenda and the Social Protection floor are just two that come to mind.
Central to our approach in South Africa is recognition of the enormous responsibility on all social partners to contribute in different ways. In particular, to contribute through effective social dialogue to the creation of more and better jobs.
The ILO has had a significant influence on our policies. The New Growth Path adopted by the South African government as the framework for economic policy and the country’s jobs strategy makes decent work central to efforts to stimulate the rate of economic growth and the employment intensity of that growth.
The draft National Development Plan – Vision for 2030 for South Africa that is now being finalised has also elevated decent work in its proposals for development and labour policies to take the country forward to 2030. The plan recognises the importance of balancing the need for faster expansion of employment opportunities with the protection of labour rights.
As the Director-General’s report notes, attention is now turning to the feasibility of policies for decent work. Comparative analysis, guidelines and technical support will be important as discussion turns more to issues of feasibility, costs and benefits of decent work strategies. Clear measurement and monitoring frameworks will also be needed to evaluate progress and determine impact.
In this regard, the South African Decent Work Country Programme has made good progress in formulating a set of Decent Work Indicators drawing on official statistics available in South Africa, complemented by administrative data. The technical support of the ILO must be acknowledged in this regard and also in relation to the support provided in a number of other areas. ILO Technical Assistance has been provided to the country’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and also to the more recently established Community Works Programme. In the light of the structural unemployment problem faced by South Africa, public works programmes continue to have an important place in our active labour market policies.
In implementing the Decent Work agenda in Africa, we need strong international agencies to provide guidance and technical support now more than ever. There are many challenges in the labour market and many vulnerable workers that need the standards and services provided by the ILO.
The standard setting work of the ILO and the labour market governance conventions will play a particularly important role. As highlighted by the outgoing Director-General in his opening address, respect for fundamental principles and rights at work come under pressure in a time of economic uncertainty. In South Africa, there has been a sustained campaign through the media and by commentators calling for deregulation of the labour market and relaxation of dismissal requirements.
We have, however, made progress towards ratification of Convention 81 on Labour Inspection, Convention 129 on Labour inspection on farms and Convention 189 on Domestic Workers. Work is also progressing on a review of our Code of Good Practice and Technical Assistance guidelines on HIV/AIDS in the light of ILO Recommendation number 200 concerning HIV and AIDS and the World of Work.
With technical assistance of the ILO, we have recently completed an analysis of the prospects of ratification of ILO Convention 102: Social Security (Minimum Standards). This should be viewed in the context of strengthening social security as a response to the global economic crisis and enhancing the Decent Work Agenda.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Director-General for his excellent report. We would also acknowledge his contribution to the ILO and to all its member states during his tenure as Director-General.
The South African government is confident that the voice of labour is more audible on the international stage now than it was a decade ago, in part due to the efforts of the Director-General. And this is as it should be. In the context of weak economic growth, a resurgence of austerity and calls for greater labour market flexibility, the interests of labour will need strong support in the years ahead.
Allow me then to congratulate Mr. Guy Ryder on his election as the 10th Director-General of the ILO with effect from October 2012. Mr. Ryder’s outstanding track record in the ILO and the international trade union movement will no doubt stand him in good stead as Director-General. He can be assured of our continued support.
In conclusion, I would also like to congratulate South Sudan for being the latest nation to join the ILO. We all know that South Sudan has come a long way to be the world’s youngest nation and even though challenges still remain, they have proved that dialogue, the centrepiece of our work, does indeed work.
Issued by: Department of Labour
12 Jun 2012
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