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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  11 Jul 2011

LABOUR: Strikes Wipe Out 25m Work Days


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Permanent and temporary employment - mainly in unskilled and semi-skilled categories - dropped sharply during June while positions in the unofficial sector shot up as did high-skilled management and professional services jobs.

This is according to the latest Employment Index for June, released by Adcorp today.

This month’s Index also predicts a marked increase in strike activity during 2011 by 22% compared to last year.

Says Adcorp labour market analyst, Loane Sharp: “Some 127 100 permanent and 5 712 temporary jobs were shed last month even though a 21.9% increase in high-level and professional employment was seen.”

Meanwhile, the typically buoyant agency work sector, which has consistently contributed to employment growth for well over a decade, remained completely static.

South Africa’s unemployment rate is currently one of the highest in the world. In 2010 there were 8.5 million unemployed and under-employed people.

Yet Sharp says official statistics do not incorporate informal employment, that is, employment that may not involve a formal contract or membership of a pension fund or medical aid.

If we fully account for informal employment, South Africa’s unemployment rate is closer to 8% than 25%,” says Sharp. “Many millions of enterprising South Africans make a living on a daily basis and neither pay taxes nor adhere to labour laws.”

Adcorp’s Employment Index for June shows that positions in the unofficial sector increased by 1 059 – and thankfully so, given existing levels of unemployment.

This month’s Adcorp Employment Index also reveals that in 2010 there were more working days lost due to strikes and work stoppages than at the peak of ‘rolling mass-action’ under apartheid.

Says Sharp: “Based on Adcorp’s monitoring of trade union activities this year, we estimate that South Africa will lose 24.9 million days due to strikes and work stoppages in 2011. This represents an increase of 22% over 2010.

Compared to recent years, where strike activity has been most aggressive in the government sector, the private sector is likely to account for 68% of all workdays lost this year.

South Africa’s unemployment rate increased from about 7% in the mid-1970s to 13% in the mid-1990s and 25% in the late 2000s.

This means that current high levels of unemployment are more a post-apartheid phenomenon and less an apartheid legacy – they have current rather than historical causes.”

Sharp believes that education, labour and other policies could have had a profound impact over the years since 1994. He says the employment crisis South Africa finds itself in today may well have been averted or minimised.

Looking forward to address the dire jobs crisis, Adcorp remains a strong proponent of the utmost necessity to bring the informally employed into the formal sector. “This essentially requires revising two areas of the Labour Relations Act of 1995 (“LRA”), namely collective bargaining procedures and protections against dismissal,” says Sharp.

Cosatu, with its 1.8 million members, needs to consider the 8.5 million unemployed and under-employed people as well,” insists Sharp.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) – an international grouping of the world’s largest multinational corporations, South Africa’s labour laws and regulations rank 133rd among 139 countries in the world i.e. the 7th-lowest internationally.

As the WEF notes in its 2010 Global Competitiveness Report, South Africa has the 8th-highest level of industrial conflict in the world – despite having, in the South African government’s view, some of the world’s ‘most progressive’ labour legislation.


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