Labour market reform ‘too slow’ – Nxesi

Progress on implementing reforms in South Africa’s labour market has dragged on for much longer than expected at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), says Minister of the Department of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi.

Speaking during the 28th Annual Nedlac Summit at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Johannesburg, on Friday, he said: “Unfortunately, there is one area of work in Nedlac where progress is just too slow, and that is the area of labour market reform.”


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According to the minister, back in 2021, expectations were that it would take the government and labour less than a year to implement changes to the labour market that would improve conditions and efficiency.

“In early 2021, after business, labour and government had tabled their proposals for labour law reform, I had hoped that within six or eight months, we would have reached an agreement on a number of changes that would improve the efficiency of the labour market without disturbing worker rights,” he said.

“Some of the amendments proposed by the parties included improving the functioning of the Labour Court and collective bargaining which ensure that in practice, the rights of workers are realised. However, the process is ongoing and we are now too late for this parliamentary cycle,” added Nxesi.

He said that it will be prudent for Nedlac to extend its labour market reform scope to consider the rights of workers in non-standard employment, like in remote work and the gig economy, to cater for the changing working environment.

Social partnerships

For Deputy President Paul Mashatile, who delivered a keynote address at the Nedlac Summit, social partnerships between government, business and organised labour will be critical in shaping a labour market able to support economic growth.


Stakeholders will need to collaborate to find solutions to the country’s skills shortage challenges, unemployment and inequality in the market, he said.

“It will only be through partnerships that we can ensure that everyone is supported to transition to new employment or better livelihoods and provided with the necessary social support mechanisms,” Mashatile added.

“If not, those that are negatively affected now will resist this transition, to the detriment of future generations,” he said.

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