The partners of the National Economic, Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) have committed themselves to find solutions for South Africa’s economic, labour and development challenges.
Government, labour, community and business at the 23rd Nedlac Annual Summit highlighted the need for serious discussions and increased partnership in addressing the unemployment rate, which disproportionately affects youth, as well as the need to strengthen cooperation between social partners for economic growth of the country.
Speaking at the summit, Deputy President David Mabuza said the council needs to assist the National Treasury in the development of appropriate stimulus measures to cushion the poor and re-start the economy.
South Africa’s economic condition in the wake of the 2017 Sovereign Ratings Downgrades has seen sluggish economic growth leading to slow employment opportunities, job losses that further compound the challenge of poverty and inequality in the country, as well as the high Rand-dollar exchanges and high fuel prices.
The Deputy President said the country needs to understand the depth of the challenges, adding that the country cannot wallow griped in a winter of despair.
“We must all have the courage and conviction in lifting our country out of this economic challenge. We must stand together to engineer the path of unity of purpose.
“This will at times require surgical and difficult austerity measures. It will require that we work smarter, faster and with the requisite conviction to make do with the little we have,” Deputy President Mabuza told the delegates.
Fourth Industrial Revolution
With regards to the high inequality caused by historical disadvantages and low levels of education and skills among women and youth, the Deputy President said the country needs to work on a comprehensive social security and retirement reform system, which is affordable, sustainable and appropriate for South Africa.
As such the country needs innovative, efficient and effective responses that ride on the wave of a Fourth Industrial Revolution.
This means that the country needs to invest in science, technology and innovation, especially targeting the youth.
“We must anchor our growth on a digital revolution, a revolution that will change the way we work, live and tame artificial intelligence.
“For this future, we will need to prepare workers, business and young people to see this change as pregnant with opportunity and infinite possibilities.”
Fight against corruption
The Deputy President went on to call for better partnership in the fight against corruption and governance failures.
Together, he said, government must build resilient institutions that would make the country to grow to higher levels.
“Without your support and commitment, we cannot be able to defeat the corruption both in public and private sectors as well as price collusion.
“We need business to close the taps of corporate greed, just as we need to ensure that public representatives do not use public resources for private interest.”
The Deputy President’s calls were met with positivity from Nedlac partners from labour, community and business.
Improved, clear policies
Overall Convener for Business, Sipho Pityana, told the summit that the sluggish economy is a matter of concern. He called for improved and clear policies which would attract investments.
“With improved policy and stamp of approach, we must lead the charge in deploying more capital investments which will encourage foreign investors to follow suit. Often new money follows the experience of the old. We can only cultivate our value chains in such a manner by becoming more inclusive and developed with job creation and entrepreneurship in mind,” said Pityana.
He went on to call on business “both black and white to commit to developing an economic recovery plan for South Africa.
“We have no time to waste. It’s not only our duty to act it was our fiducial responsibility to recognise fierce urgency of the now,” he said, calling on organised business to long-time partner and generator of wealth and taxes.
The overall convenor for community, Thulani Tshefuta, raised the issue of unemployment especially among the youth before calling on the council to promote the prospects of economic activity and self-employment.
“If we are serious about stability, prosperity and sustainability of our society, youth employment and youth entrepreneurship must always be at the centre of our social dialogue.”
National Minimum Wage
Overall convenor for labour, Bheki Ntshalintshali, for his part called for the introduction of the National Minimum Wage, saying it should be implemented as it would address income inequality.
“More than six million workers are expected to benefit from the National Minimum Wage when it is introduced.”
The Bill according to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant was approved by the National Council of Provinces last month and is now with President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign into law.
It proposes, among other things, that the National Minimum Wage level be set at R20 per hour and be reviewed annually. However, the minimum wages for domestic and farm workers will initially be set at R15 and R18 an hour, respectively.
Promoting social dialogue
Oliphant went on to complement the Nedlac for promoting social dialogue that strategically positioned to build consensus among government, labour, business and community on promoting the values of the Constitution.
The summit themed “Transformation of the Economy through inclusive economic growth and decent jobs”, will among others prepare for the upcoming Jobs and Investment Summits, and also strengthen cooperation between social partners for economic growth of the country.
Furthermore, it will deliberate on issues that include the National Minimum Wage, Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bills, the Comprehensive Social Security, the National Health Insurance White Paper, the Retirement Reforms engagements, as well as matters related to the sovereign ratings downgrade.
Nedlac is the vehicle by which government, labour, business and community organisations seek to cooperate, through problem-solving and negotiation, on economic, labour and development issues and related challenges facing the country. – SAnews.gov.za