Keynote Address by Minister TW Nxesi at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) Department of Co-operative Education, The World of Work Careers Fair Gala Dinner
14 August 2019
• Protocol • Programme Director • Our hosts - the leadership and staff of the Durban University of Technology • Representatives of: o commerce and industry o government departments, municipalities and SETAs • members of the media • honoured guests
Thank you for this opportunity to engage and to exchange information. First allow me to congratulate the organisers of this important event – now in its 12th year - and the participants – I am told this event involves 171 organisations and 400 delegates – as well, of course, as the large numbers of students who will be attending the Careers Fair.
You are doing good work: as employers, you have devoted time and resources to informing the students of the many career and training opportunities that exist out there. This is a mutually beneficial engagement for all concerned:
• the students get an insight into what is expected of them in the labour market and the opportunities that exist.
• Employers get to know what the students are thinking and what they can bring to the party.
• The University is also kept in the loop – they learn what skills are relevant to the demands of the labour market.
Indeed, I want to encourage employers to partner with training institutions to provide work experience, mentoring and job shadowing to students. Theory without practice leads to a situation where graduates hit the labour market unprepared for what is required of them. The result is unemployed graduates – who over time will become unemployable. What a waste of talent and potential! So that relationship between the world of work and the academy is vital for producing graduates that can add value and bring to bear relevant skills when they find employment.
Let me add, this also places a major responsibility on the training institution. The Durban University of Technology staff need to be in constant communication with employers – monitoring their changing skills requirements – so that curricula keeps up with the requirements of the labour market. This process will only intensify as we engage increasingly with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In the time available, I want to cover the following:
• The Future of the World of Work, and
• The employment services offered by my Department
• and the implications of the renaming and reconfiguration of the former Department of Labour – now reincarnated as the Department of Employment and Labour.
The Future of the World of Work
This event goes under the title of the World of Work Careers Fair. But of course we all know that the World of Work is not a static entity, but constantly evolving – and at an increasingly rapid rate.
[I hope I am not trespassing on the territory of the talk on ‘Disrupting the Future’]. Digitalisation, automation, Artificial Intelligence and the Fourth Industrial Revolution will affect us all – some jobs will go; new jobs and skills – and training and re-training – will be required. So that directly effects the University’s course offerings, the demands for certain
skills by employers, as well as the need for a mind-set change by students and work-seekers.
You cannot prevent technological change – and this of course has the potential to be very disruptive in economic and societal terms. The process will need to be managed – a process which must be led by government, but needs to involve all social partners and stakeholders – labour, business, training institutions etc.
Indeed, last year the International Labour Organisation (ILO) established a Global Commission on the Future of Work. Incidentally, the Global Commission was co-chaired by our own President Cyril Ramaphosa, together with the Prime Minister of Sweden. The main message and recommendations of the Global Commission Report focuses:
• on the need to re-invigorate the social contract – between government, labour and employers,
• with the intension of instituting a ‘human-centred agenda’ – in managing the introduction of new
• technology – so that human beings are not left behind.
•Amongst others, this approach requires: o The need for lifelong learning
o Supporting people through the transition
o Strengthening social protection
o Upholding safety standards, decent and sustainable work, and
o Shifting incentives towards a human-centred business and economic model.
Let me quote from the Declaration of the Centenary Conference of the ILO – this year - on these matters:
In discharging its constitutional mandate, taking into account the profound transformations in the world of work, and further developing its human-centred approach to the future of work, the ILO must direct its efforts to:
(i) ensuring a just transition to a future of work that contributes to sustainable development in its economic, social and environmental dimensions;
(ii) harnessing the fullest potential of technological progress and productivity growth, including through social dialogue, to achieve decent work and sustainable development, which ensure dignity, self-fulfilment and a just sharing of the benefits for all;
(iii) promoting the acquisition of skills, competencies and qualifications for all workers throughout their working lives as a joint responsibility of governments and social partners in order to:
– address existing and anticipated skills gaps;
– pay particular attention to ensuring that education and training systems are responsive to labour market needs, taking into account the evolution of work…[End quote.]
It must be reassuring, for us as a nation, that we are led by a President who sees the big picture when it comes to the Future of Work – and indeed has led research and debate on the Future of Work in international forums.
By the way, I also give thanks for the fact that we are now led by a President committed to fighting corruption and state capture. This is a necessary pre-condition for turning the economy around – as well as managing the rapid changes that will take place in the World of Work.
The Department of Employment and Labour
Traditionally, the former Department of Labour was charged with developing policy and legislation to regulate the labour market with the objectives of:
• Promoting healthy industrial relations
• Promoting healthy and safe conditions at work
• Promoting decent work and a National Minimum Wage
• Promoting Employment Equity – so that employment, at all levels, reflects the demographics of the country.
• Providing social protection through the UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) and the
• Compensation Fund (for workplace illness and accidents).
• Inspecting and enforcing labour laws and conditions.
This mandate remains. The Department of Employment and Labour will continue to champion decent working conditions and healthy industrial relations. This is essential to creating a stable labour market – which in turn is conducive to investment, growth and employment. That is in the interests of all of us – socially responsible employers and labour alike.
So, the renaming and reconfiguration of the Department to include the word ‘Employment’ needs to be unpacked. First, the renaming points to the President’s priorities: growth and jobs. The Department now has an additional focus - to implement active labour market policies with the objectives of leveraging the resources we have to preserve and create jobs, as well as to promote appropriate training and re-training which meets the skills demanded by the labour market.
By the way, this thinking started before the advent of the new Sixth Administration. It started with the Jobs Summit Agreements in 2018. An example is the formation of TERS (Turnaround Employer/Employee Relief Scheme) where we have leveraged surpluses in the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to – amongst others - assist the recapitalisation of the Edcon Group – preserving 140,000 direct and indirect jobs. By the way this investment went with guarantees and a sustainable turnaround strategy.
Another example, is the Pathway to Earning scheme – in partnership with employers – providing 110,000 jobs and work opportunities to young people.
We also have now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the two Education departments with a view to reviving and strengthening training programmes, which respond to the skills needs of the labour market.
So I trust that this gives you a sense of the new mandate of the Department of Labour and Employment – but let me emphasise the point made by the President: that addressing the slow growth rate and the unemployment crisis requires social dialogue and coordination and cooperation between all social partners – labour, business and government – at all levels.
DEL: Public Employment Services
Let me end on a practical note, and speak about the Public Employment Services which are provided by the Department to employers and work seekers. It will be part of our new focus on Employment to strengthen and expand the work of the Public Employment Services.
This will now include specialised Youth Employment Centres. The first Centre was opened in Cape Town last month. Next month we will be opening a Youth Centre in Gauteng. These provide a free service including:
• On-line registration of employment and training opportunities
• To be matched against job seekers
• Providing career counselling and CVs to job seekers
• Verifying qualifications and conducting assessment and psychometric testing of candidates where required.
Again, this is a free service provided by the Department. But I need to emphasise that this Service only works if employers and work-seekers register on our ESSA system (Employment Services System of South Africa) with our Labour Centres or on-line. So I appeal to all employers here to register their vacancies. It costs you nothing, and it can assist you in the recruitment process. Last year we placed 50,000 work seekers with employers – we need to upscale our efforts in this respect.
By the way, I need to make the point that the Department has a broad national footprint with 9
provincial offices, 126 Labour Centres and nearly 500 visiting points and satellites. So, I want to encourage employers and work seekers to make use of these employment services – as well as for UIF and Compensation Fund registration and claims.
Also, for those doing business with the state, you will require a Letter or Certificate of Compliance with the various labour laws. This again can be done through our Labour Centres – or on line. For further details, the Department will have an exhibition stall in the Careers Fair.
That’s all from me. I trust that you have a very productive Careers Fair.
© 2019 - The South African Department of Employment & Labour