Presidential Jobs Summit – from the perspective of workers in the informal economy

By Pat Horn, StreetNet International Coordinator

Lead-up to Jobs Summit

In his State of the Nation address in February 2018, the new President of South Africa, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, announced that a Jobs Summit would be convened as soon as possible to address the problems of joblessness and unemployment in South Africa.

With regard to workers in the informal economy, there was already a process under way on the transitions from the informal to the formal economy after the adoption of ILO Recommendation 204 (R204) in June 2015, under the auspices of the Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) in South Africa.  This process re-started with the active involvement of the Community Constituency (CC) of NEDLAC (National Economic, Development & Labour Council) with the revival of a R204 National Task Team and addition of representatives from the CC in July 2017.  I have been representing the CC delegation in these processes via the FSCC (Financial Sector Campaign Coalition).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Presidential Jobs Summit was convened on 4th/5th October 2018, without us having been able to get any feedback with regard to our contributions to the process.   I was invited to attend as part of a 100-person delegation from the NEDLAC CC.

During the first day of the Job Summit, I learned that the Presidential Jobs Summit Task Team consisting of two representatives from each of the social partners outside of government had been established after the President’s State of the Nation Address, with the following working groups:

  • Economic Sector-specific Interventions
  • Public Employment
  • SMMEs
  • Skills Development
  • Inclusive Growth

Negotiations had started in May, geared to concluding agreements on projects for the creation of specified numbers of jobs. The agreements which had pinned down measurable projects and had budgets allocate to them were to be presented to the Presidential Investment Summit scheduled to take place a few weeks later on 17th October 2018.  A Framework Agreement had been developed, and an abridged version of the Framework Agreement on the basis of agreements already concluded was to be signed on the first day of the Jobs Summit immediately after the opening speeches.

The opening of a Post-Summit process to all who wish to be part of it was generally accepted as a reasonably acceptable way forward.

Post-Summit process would start on Monday 8th October, starting to identify the implementers for different parts of the agreements.  A Presidential Jobs Committee including representatives from the social partners will be set up, and will meet quarterly to monitor implementation.  A Jobs Summit Monitoring Team (JSMT) will canvass opinions from communities.

Some working groups had forwarded proposals which were not finally taken forward into the Framework Agreement.  This will now happen during the Post-Summit process.

Individuals who would like to participate in the Post-Summit process were invited to send in their names.

Social partners’ opening inputs

Business – BUSA President Sipho Pityana said that the Jobs Summit has not sufficiently addressed itself to the 4th Industrial Revolution, and that the job creation charge needs to be led by the digital generation and prepare for the future, taking into account the growing gig economy and other new developments in the world of work.  Critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence needed.

Community – SAYC (SA Youth Council) Thulani Tshefuta focussed on the need to invest in the youth, as there are too many unemployed graduates. However, this presentation did not deal substantially with the other sectors of the CC, i.e. people with disabilities, women, civics, cooperatives, nor workers in the informal economy or in communities.

Labour – COSATU General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali emphasised the importance of the process rather than the content of the Framework Agreement.  Labour’s focus had been on the most vulnerable workers and demanding a moratorium on retrenchments.

Government – President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa noted that in South Africa we do not use our enormous potential to create jobs, we have a problem of policy inconsistency, and state capture and corruption have eroded confidence and used up a lot of resources – so the process leading to the Jobs Summit had been geared to reaching agreement on a number of interventions.

Framework Agreement – The final version was finally distributed at the time that the short version was already being signed – and it was significantly different from the previously circulated versions.  Needless to say, the paragraph from the R204 National Task Team and content from the Policy Brief on the Informal Economy/Sector did not find their way into the Framework Agreement.

However, in the Framework Agreement and its structure, the Waste Sector has been identified as one of the sectors for agreed sector-specific interventions. However, in relation to job creation and/or work retention for workers in other sectors of the informal economy (such as street vendors, own-account agricultural and transport workers, home-based workers, subsistence fisherpeople, etc.) it is clear that we will need to make use of the Post-Summit processes to put forward focussed proposals, with numbers and costings, to be implemented in the short term while attending to the legal and policy issues outlined in the Policy Brief on the Informal Economy/Sector.

Opportunity for discussion was during break-away sessions on Day Two.  There were three parallel but rather overlapping break-away themes, entitled:

  1. Sectoral interventions creating employment
  2. Enabling interventions/ interventions supportive of employment creation
  3. Interventions focussed on enhancing efficiencies

Being aware now that the Waste Sector had been identified as one of the sectors for agreed sector-specific interventions in the Framework Agreement, I decided to participate in Theme One in order to highlight the role local government should be playing in the retention of existing work and livelihoods for workers in the informal economy.

In the final plenary session of the Jobs Summit, led by Proudly South African, local companies who had made pledges of local procurement of specified value, creating specified numbers of jobs within certain time-frames, investing specified amounts in job-creation, were called up to make their commitments publicly.

Among my developed Recommendations, the most crucial are: all WIEGO and StreetNet people in South Africa to apply our minds to developing new proposals with a 6-month time-frame to be put in place, in respect of the preservation and securing of the work of workers in other sectors of the informal economy.  These proposals should specify very clearly who are the implementing agents, estimate the number of people for whom this would secure work, estimate costings, identify the most appropriate funding sources, and specify what we and the MBOs of organised workers in those sectors can bring to the process.  The first such proposals would have to be ready for submission into the Post-Summit processes by the end of 2018.