March 28, 2024

SADC Ministers of Employment and Labour and Social Partners call for intensified action to promote decent work in the region

SADC Ministers of Employment and Labour and Social Partners held their annual meeting in Lubango, Republic of Angola from 27 to 28 March 2024. The meeting was attended by thirteen (13) Member States: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, 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. 

When opening the meeting, the Minister of Public Administration, Labour and Social Security of the Republic of Angola, Honourable Teresa Rodrigues Dias, reaffirmed SADC’s commitment to achieve its objectives of economic growth and socioeconomic development, peace and security, and poverty eradication. She underscored that this commitment required Member States to intensify efforts to enhance access to employment and promote sustainable enterprises and productivity, for the benefit of all citizens in the region, especially women and persons with disabilities. Accordingly, she emphasised the need for Member States to, among other targets, strengthen labour market governance, increase access to social security and enhance tripartism and social dialogue. Honourable Minister Dias urged the Member States to sign and ratify the SADC Protocol on Employment and Labour as an integral part of efforts to create a conducive environment for the realisation of decent work in the region. 

The SADC Executive Secretary, His Excellency Mr. Elias Mpedi Magosi, highlighted that unemployment and underemployment posed the most urgent development challenge for the region, particularly with youth unemployment rates exceeding 50% in some countries, disproportionately affecting young women. Where employment was generally low, decent work deficits remained prevalent due to poor working conditions, weak social security systems and high informality. Recognising these deep-rooted challenges, the Executive Secretary called upon Member States to prioritize practical actions and collaborative strategies to address these concerns. He reiterated the call by the SADC Council of Ministers for the implementation of pro-employment macroeconomic and sectoral policies geared towards economic structural transformation, emphasising the need to enhance technical capacities for implementation at country level. 

Mr. Magosi remarked that the region was dominated by young people who accounted for about three-quarters of the population, signifying SADC’s potential for a demographic dividend. He stressed the importance of investing in children and youth to realise this potential and advocated for measures to eradicate child labour by ensuring access to education and protecting children from hazardous work. While noting that child labour remained rampant across the region, he welcomed the progress in the domestication of the SADC Code of Conduct on Child Labour, through National Action Plans and dedicated child labour units

Notably, the Ministers and Social Partners: 

  1. Noted that since adoption at Summit in 2023, the SADC Protocol on Employment and Labour had been signed by the Republics of Angola and Malawi and the Kingdom of Eswatini. They committed to undertake national consultations with a view to sign and ratify the Protocol during the period up to 2025, noting that the instrument will go a long way in promoting decent work, underpinned by inclusive and productive employment, respect for rights at work, enhanced social security and strong labour market institutions. 
  2. Urged Member States to develop and intensify the implementation of National Employment Policies and other related strategies to increase employment opportunities and reduce labour underutilisation. To ensure effective implementation and monitoring, they urged Member States to produce labour statistics on a regular basis using the latest statistical standards and approved the SADC Labour Market Observatory (LMO) Data Master Plan for endorsement by the SADC Statistics Committee. In addition, they directed the Secretariat to expedite the operationalisation of the SADC LMO. 
  3. Endorsed the Concept Note on a Capacity Building Programme (CBP) on Pro-employment Macroeconomic Policies and Strategies for SADC Member States. The CPB seeks to provide a comprehensive and long-term support facility to actualise SADC Member States’ strong political commitment to promote and realise sustainable job creation, working with the private sector. The Ministers also called for greater cooperation between the Education and Skills Development Sector and the Employment and Labour Sector in order to enhance the employability of graduates, including through relevant TVET programmes.  
  4. Called upon Member States to domesticate the SADC Labour Migration Action Plan (2020-2025) through the development and implementation of national labour migration policies or strategies. They acknowledged the vital significance of the Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons (2005) in facilitating safe, orderly, and regular labour migration, as well as promoting trade, upon its entry into force. In highlighting the need for multisectoral collaboration to wholesomely address migration, they directed the Secretariat to organise a joint meeting of key Ministries responsible for migration management to discuss labour mobility in the region. 
  5. Reviewed the implementation status of the SADC Code of Conduct on Child Labour and noted that impact on the ground remained constrained with average child labour rates ranging from 5% to 32%, based on the latest available statistics. The Ministers underscored the importance of aligning the minimum age of admission into employment and the age of compulsory education, considering that early admission into employment may curtail educational attainment of children of school going age. They also urged Member States to increase budgetary allocations for child labour and data collection and requested continued assistance by International Cooperating Partners. 
  6. Approved the Model Framework for Autonomous Labour Dispute Resolution Systems in SADC, which seeks to guide the establishment and maintenance of systems that are autonomous, accessible, efficient and subject to tripartite consultation in line with the SADC Charter of Fundamental Social Rights. The overall objective is to facilitate greater labour market efficiency, strengthen institutional governance and enable the recruitment and retention of qualified dispute resolution officers. 
  7. Nominated Malawi (Titular), Mozambique (Deputy) and South Africa (Deputy) as the SADC Members of the Governing Body of the ILO for the period 2024-2027 and requested Member States to vote for them during the upcoming International Labour Conference in June 2024. The Ministers also reflected on the ratification status of ILO instruments that have been priotitised by SADC and urged Member States to undertake gap analyses and to speedily ratify them.

The Ministers and Social Partners ended their annual meeting by visiting the Local Entrepreneurship Centre (CLESE) in Lubango and presiding over an award ceremony where 90 recent graduates received their certificates, as well as loans, starter-kits and equipment to support their businesses. Established in 2011 under the auspices of the Ministry of Public Administration, Labour and Social Security, through the National Institute for Employment and Vocational Training, the Centre provides tailor-made solutions to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit and inspire innovation, growth, and prosperity among small and medium enterprises.