SADC Ministers of Employment and Labour and Social Partners call for enhanced measures to create decent work in the region
Ministers of Employment and Labour of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Social Partners held their annual meeting in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, from 30 to 31 March 2023 with a call for enhanced measures to create decent work in the region.
When opening the meeting, the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, His Excellency Mr. Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge, highlighted that there is an urgent need for the SADC region to put measures in place to create decent work to improve livelihoods of the people.
He reiterated his country’s commitment to regional integration, in line with the SADC Vision 2050 and the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan. He informed the Ministers that the country was revising its national labour policy, improving its system of labour inspection, and implementing policy measures to eradicate forced child labour and human trafficking. He also mentioned that decent work was a top priority in DRC, with employment creation being central to the country’s national economic planning.
On her part, the Deputy Executive Secretary for Regional Integration, Ms. Angele Makombo N’tumba expressed the region’s condolences to the people of Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique following the loss of lives due to the devastating effects of Tropical Cyclone Freddy. She pointed out that due to limited economic transformation and weak implementation of employment policies, the labour market situation in the region was worrying. She noted the existence of significant decent work gaps especially for young people many of whom were not in education, employment or training, with young women facing more difficulties. The Deputy Executive Secretary highlighted the need to rethink development strategies and to implement well-coordinated macroeconomic policies and strategies with a view to promote employment and harness the demographic dividend.
Notably, the Ministers and Social Partners:
1.Approved the draft SADC Protocol on Employment and Labour, marking a significant step in addressing the challenge of unemployment and promoting decent work in the region. The draft Protocol establishes a regional cooperation framework on employment and labour and promotes the adoption of minimum labour standards and fundamental labour guarantees to eliminate ills such as forced labour, child labour, discrimination, and violence in the workplace. The Protocol also promotes employment as a central objective for sustainable poverty eradication, with other provisions addressing decent work in the informal economy, resilience to labour market disruptions, and strengthening of labour migration management.
Following its approval by the Ministers and Social Partners, the draft Protocol was referred to the SADC Ministers responsible for Justice/Attorneys-General for clearance, and subsequent consideration by Council and Summit in August 2023;
2. Noted with concern that unemployment and underemployment remained serious challenges in Member States. They urged Member States to strengthen Labour Market Information Systems to enhance understanding of the labour market. They called for Member States to improve the implementation of national employment policies that are underpinned by measures to foster structural transformation of economies, revamp education and training systems, promote social dialogue, and to improve access to finance for young people through affirmative action programmes;
3. Acknowledged the need to enhance labour migration management, to create a safe environment for the movement of workers in the region and beyond. They urged Member States to continue implementing the SADC Labour Migration Action Plan (2020-2025), and urged Member States that are yet to ratify the Protocol on Facilitation of Movement of Persons in SADC of 2005 to do so;
4. Reviewed the status of implementation of national actions plans to end child labour in Member States and noted that that the region was a long way from meeting the commitments outlined in the Durban Call to Action on the Elimination of Child Labour, as well as the Revised SADC Code of Conduct on Child Labour. They acknowledged the need to address harmful cultural practices, and to enhance data collection and analysis of child labour trends. Accordingly, they called for Member States to increase resources for child labour interventions, including strengthening labour inspectorates and child labour units;
5. Considered briefings by SADC Members of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) (Eswatini, Malawi and Namibia) on issues of interest to the region. In particular, the Ministers and Social Partners expressed support for the ILO’s proposed recommendation on apprenticeships, emphasizing the need to ensure that measures to promote apprenticeships are inclusive enough to cover the informal economy. They recognized that the informal economy employs a significant portion of the workforce in the region and that apprenticeships can play a crucial role in enhancing skills development and increasing productivity in this sector. Therefore, they urged Member States to adopt a comprehensive approach to apprenticeships that includes appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks, social protection measures, and support services to ensure that apprenticeships benefit all workers;
6. Received reports on the activities undertaken by the employers and workers through SPSF and SATUCC, respectively. In this regard, they noted with interest the efforts being made to improve labour laws and protect labour rights across Member States. They underscored the need to cultivate a culture of social dialogue to solve issues of concern regarding trade union rights; and
7. Ended their annual meeting by visiting the National Institute of Professional Preparation (INPP), a public body in the Democratic Republic of Congo that is responsible for human capital development, especially for the unemployed and vulnerable groups. They commended the government for the INPP’s skills development interventions, which prioritised training that is aligned to the realities of the job market.
The meeting was attended by thirteen (13) Member States: Angola, Botswana, Comoros Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and representatives from the SADC Private Sector Forum (SPSF) and Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC). Representatives of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) also attended the meeting.