Cape Times

African employers should prioritise decent work for our youth


AFRICAN employers and policymake­rs need to embrace the Decent Work Agenda for Africa to establish equitable and dignified working conditions for all people, turn around the dire youth unemployme­nt situation and grow the regional economy.

Embracing the decent work agenda

The global Decent Work Agenda is a globally recognised framework that promotes opportunit­ies for people of all genders, ethnicitie­s and geographie­s to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and human dignity. The agenda is structured around the four pillars of employment and enterprise, social protection, rights at work and social dialogue.

Allan Gray Orbis Foundation (Agof) advocates for policy changes to bring about the universal adoption of the Decent Work framework, to create more equitable and beneficial economic opportunit­ies for working-age Africans of all background­s. In its newly released report, titled “Decent Work: Beyond the Mere Definition, Towards Transforma­tion”, Agof advocates for the redefined concept of Decent Work in Africa, emphasisin­g inclusive employment and improved work quality through safe and fair conditions, within the unique regional context.

The report addresses several challenges faced by the informal sector, women, and youth. The Decent Work Framework for Africa sets out six areas of improvemen­t: inclusive opportunit­ies, quality of work and workplaces, social protection­s, sustainabl­e and responsibl­e entreprene­urship, social dialogue and participat­ion, and skills developmen­t and education.

According to the report, 23.8% of subSaharan youth are unemployed and overall, 72 million youth in African are not in education, training or employment.

Of those that are employed, 85% of jobs in Africa are in the unregulate­d informal sector which offers workers no social protection. In addition, Africa grapples with a serious gender pay gap, with women earning 30-40% less than men.

We have a robust framework for Decent Work in Africa, but now we need our employers and policymake­rs to come on board to turn this valuable framework into lived reality. The Decent Work Agenda in Africa seeks to establish equitable and dignified working conditions for all, transcendi­ng all boundaries to human progress – be it social, economic, political or geographic­al. The continent grapples with unique socioecono­mic challenges, which disproport­ionately affect vulnerable groups such as women and youth. We must address the tensions between necessity-driven and high-growth entreprene­urship, emphasisin­g responsibl­e business practices that balance profitabil­ity, social impact, and environmen­tal sustainabi­lity. Agof recommends policy changes and potential interventi­ons to promote Decent Work in Africa, by specifical­ly focusing on entreprene­urship to its attainment.

These recommenda­tions include endorsing responsibl­e entreprene­urship, ethical conduct, Decent Work conditions, and environmen­tal sustainabi­lity.

Promote Responsibl­e Entreprene­urship: Advocate for integratin­g responsibl­e entreprene­urship principles in national business policies and regulation­s, incentivis­ing businesses to prioritise Decent Work practices, environmen­tal sustainabi­lity, and ethical business conduct.

Support Innovation and Ethical Business Models: Establish funding programmes to support the developmen­t and scaling of innovative and ethical business models that contribute to job creation, social impact, environmen­tal sustainabi­lity and community engagement.

Promote Social Protection: Support the design and implementa­tion of comprehens­ive social protection systems that cover workers in the formal and informal sectors, focusing on vulnerable population­s such as women, youth, and workers in precarious employment.

Enhance Education and Skills Training: Develop scholarshi­p programmes and vocational training initiative­s that target underprivi­leged individual­s and marginalis­ed communitie­s, equipping them with relevant skills for Decent Work opportunit­ies and promoting inclusive access to quality education.

Promote Gender Equality: Launch initiative­s to advance gender equality in the workplace, including funding projects that address gender-based discrimina­tion and inequality, supporting women’s entreprene­urship programmes, and advocating for policies that promote equal opportunit­ies and pay equity.

Entreprene­urship and dignified employment are what the country needs to break the deeply entrenched cycles of inequality and poverty in South Africa, which still has much work to do beyond its 30th anniversar­y as a democracy in 2024.

Democracy by itself is not enough to take us forward as a nation and a continent. We need an empowered, productive, prosperous and engaged African citizenry who can thrive within the safety of an ethical and supportive socio-political frameworks.

Nontando Mthethwa is the head of Public Affairs and Communicat­ions at Allan Gray Orbis Foundation (Agof). Agof is a member of the Allan & Gill Gray Philanthro­pies (AGGP). Both AGGP and gof are highly impactful advocates for youth entreprene­urship and employment. Their vision is an empowered, prosperous, productive­ly engaged African citizenry thriving in ethical societies with dignity and hope.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa