Putting humans first: Nxesi attends UN labour conference in Ivory Coast

Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, trade unionists and employers' organisations from South Africa will form part of over five hundred delegates in attendance.

FILE: Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi. Picture:  Picture: @Deptoflabour/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - The future of work in Africa will come under the spotlight for the next three days with delegates from 54 countries set to discuss various issues facing the continent's 1.3 billion inhabitants.

The United Nations' International Labour Organisation (ILO) will from Tuesday hold the 14th Regional Conference in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, trade unionists and employers' organisations from South Africa will form part of over 500 delegates in attendance.

In the ILO Director-General’s report before the conference, an argument was made for the need to rapidly realise decent work for all to uplift over 250 million people on the continent who are working but poor.

Decent work refers to opportunities for employment that is productive, delivers fair income, security and social protection.

In South Africa, close to six million people are considered the working poor with no access to decent work or wages.

The report further challenges ILO member states to pursue policy coherence on investment, trade and labour as well as reforms in education and vocational training to meet the demands of the labour market.

The first conference of this nature was held in Lagos, Nigeria in 1960.


The ILO said while the frustration among South Africans over what is perceived to be a lack of government action on the adaptation to Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is understood, such change required time.

ILO director for Pretoria director Joni Musabayana told Eyewitness News on the sidelines of the regional meeting in Abidjan, that there was always a time lag between policy dialogue, adoption, and implementation.

Over 500 delegates from 54 countries on the continent spent the first day of the meeting discussing how decent work could be achieved in the context of the changing nature of work.

For many of these delegates, the question raised too often just in the case of South Africa where the citizenry wonder just what its governments are planning in light of the shifts in work and the way of life as a result of the 4IR. And they rarely had the right answers to the question.

Meanwhile, business convener at the National Economic Development and Labour Council, Kaizer Moyane, said all social partners had to contend with the fast globalising environment.


At the same, the ILO’s director general Guy Ryder implored African nations to resist a departure from multilateral cooperation as witnessed across the globe recently.

Ryder explained that the international community was facing a loss of confidence and commitment to multilateral cooperation, which must be deplored. He said the treatment and reaction to migration pointed to this very fact.

Ryder said the international debate on migration rarely acknowledged that the majority of the continent’s international migrants lived and worked in African countries, which meant major governance challenges lied in the region.

Last week, the IOM reported that South Africa had seen a significant rise in its migrant population, which stood at 7% as compared to 4% in 2010.


The ILO also reiterated calls for the future of work to have a human-centric approach.

There had been fears among sections of society, including South African trade unions, that the advancement of technology and digitalisation - among other new discoveries - would set people on the backfoot more so when it came to jobs.

However, the report on the future of work, which was co-chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa, found earlier this year that a human cantered approach was the only way to ensure positive spin-offs from 4IR.

Ryder said while opportunities for development could be opened up by advances in technology, the continent also needed to create 26 million jobs yearly to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.