Employment levels and labour productivity in the SADC region are generally low and this trend is directly linked with social and human development challenges. Gender inequality, HIV and AIDS, a lack of social protection and vulnerable employment all affect employment and labour progress.
Youth and women are the most affected by unemployment and underemployment. The youth unemployment rate in Sub-Saharan Africa was at 11.5 % in 2011. According to the International Labour Organization, in 2011, three out of four workers were considered to be in vulnerable employment. Vulnerable employment can be characterised by inadequate earnings, low productivity and difficult conditions of work that undermine fundamental worker rights.
The primary objective of SADC’s employment strategy is to stimulate the demand for labour, or increase the rate of labour absorption in the economy. Challenges to meeting this objective have been identified through the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan and the majority of these challenges are directly linked to social and human development, such as:
- Combating high levels of unemployment and under-employment, especially among Women and Youth;
- Gender inequalities in the labour markets and inadequate mainstreaming of gender concerns in the policy formulation and programme implementation;
- Inadequate integration of employment and labour issues in overall economic and Social Development;
- Lack of a policy framework for promoting social dialogue and Social Protection;
- HIV and AIDS affecting the most productive labour force; and
- Lack of Positive Cultural Attitudes towards productivity, entrepreneurship and innovation.
The main function of the Employment and Labour Sector (ELS) within the SADC Secretariat is to facilitate and coordinate the development, harmonisation, and monitoring of the implementation of policies and programmes on employment and labour matters within the context of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan.
The specific Objectives of the Employment and Labour Sector Programme are to:
- Facilitate the creation of productive and decent employment;
- Promote social protection that includes social security provisioning and safe working conditions for workers and their families;
- Facilitate Labour migration for development;
- Promote labour productivity;
- Promote labour rights/ standards for both formal and informal economy; and
- Promote social dialogue through tripartite consultation in addressing industrial relations and police-making.
A number of policy instruments and guidelines have been developed and adopted within the SADC region related to employment and labour which give strategic guidance to stakeholders in Members States as well as facilitate collection of data and analysis. These are:
- The SADC Charter of Fundamental Social Rights;
- Draft Codes of Conduct on Child Labour;
- Declaration on Productivity;
- Code on Safe Use of Chemicals
The International Labour Organization records indicate that with the exception of two countries, more men participate in the labour force than women in SADC Member States. The Gender Policy Acknowledges that the labour market in Southern Africa is characterised by gender inequalities, made worse by legislation, laws, policies and practices that disadvantage women. The policy calls upon Member States to review and reform them, commit them to develop and implement gender sensitive policies, and take positive action to promote equality for women in work and employment
The implementation structure of the SADC Employment and Labour Sector is based on the principle of tripartism (Governments, Workers and Employers’ representatives) and it includes:
- The Committee of Ministers and Social Partners;
- The Committee of Senior Officials and Social Partners;
- The Technical Sub-Committee on Social Protection; and
- The Technical Sub-committee on Employment and Labour.
- Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan
- Declaration on Productivity
- The SADC Charter of Fundamental Social Rights
- The code on Safe Use of Chemicals
- Code of Conduct on Child Labour
- Code on Social Security in SADC