The forced shift to alternative work models, including remote working and virtual engagement necessitating greater technological skills and competencies caused by the global pandemic, has rapidly advanced the need to re-think labour market frameworks.
Some businesses have shifted readily and are reaping the rewards of flexible, adjusted contractual relationships, whilst others are reeling from the hard shove into the unknown, that has shown up the cracks in their traditional employment work models and resulted in many individuals finding themselves without the ability to render their services under new conditions.
Speaking recently at a conference in the UK, managing director of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for New Economy and Society, Saadia Zahidi said, “We need a long-term focus on education policy, social protection and regulatory frameworks that reflect the 21st century world of work; the immediate priority is retraining and reskilling.”
South Africa continues to grapple with high levels of unemployment and a burgeoning youth population, many of whom do not have the skills necessary to access the labour market. Rigid labour market frameworks, aligned to industrial-era traditional employment models, create further barriers and disincentives to employ more people, as organisations struggle with volatile and largely uncertain economic conditions.
Work rather than employment, it is argued, should be the focus as changing conditions mean increasingly diverse forms of work are appearing. An individual’s ability to earn an income, on a continuous basis, albeit from varying sources or formats, should be the goal to alleviate current poverty levels. Of course, protection of individual rights is important too, but labour frameworks including legislation and regulation need to accommodate this diversity rather than retaining only traditional views of employment relationship, e.g., permanent, temporary or contract.
Driving inclusion, transitions and reskilling, and the impact of technology on business models, has also featured prominently in engagements of the World Employment Confederation (WEC). South Africa’s private employment services sector, through the Federation of African Professional Staffing Organisations (APSO) membership of WEC, is involved in both global discussions on diverse forms of employment, as well as engagements with local stakeholders to help shape future-fit frameworks.
The Confederation of Associations in the Private Employment Sector (CAPES) participates actively on a range of forums and has a long-standing public-private partnership with the Department of Employment and Labour and seeks to share experiences and best practice related to future of work and the need for flexible, fit-for-purpose labour market intermediation.
Through these working relationships with international bodies like WEC, best practice is shared, and brought to the South African market.
The private employment services industry is proven globally to be an important labour market intermediary, helping individuals to make the inevitable transitions, including re-skilling, necessary to remain employable in a fluid marketplace, and sourcing and deploying the right skills, in the right form, at the right time into organisations. It is for this reason that it is believed that the sector can play a pivotal role in influencing policy and associated regulations, underpinned by fair, ethical and compliant best practice, that meet the dynamic and changing needs of the future of work and emerging workforce challenges.