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    30 Apr, 2021

    SADC convenes virtual meeting of Ministers of Employment and Labour and Social Partners

    The Ministers responsible for Employment and Labour and Social Partners of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on 30th April, 2021 held a virtual meeting to discuss labour issues and interventions to stabilise the labour market and the regional economy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The meeting discussed policies that address employment and labour conditions and ensure safe and healthy working conditions, as well as other pertinent items of global significance in the labour market.

    Honourable Ms Margarida Adamugy Talapa, Minister of Labour and Social Security of the Republic of Mozambique, chaired the meeting in her capacity as the Chairperson of the SADC Committee of Ministers responsible for Employment and Labour and Social Partners. 

    She underscored the importance of the employment and labour sector in relation to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which has called for coordinated efforts by SADC Member States to realign labour market policies, and at the same time fight the scourge which has claimed lives and continues to inflict pain on humanity across the globe.

    Hon Talapa said despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the recently approved Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (2020-2030) presented an opportunity to realign strategies in order to contribute to increased decent work opportunities and productive entrepreneurship in the Region.

    She urged SADC Member States to intensify efforts to create meaningful employment stating that job creation was fundamental in achieving key provisions of the SADC Treaty which promote sustainable, equitable economic growth and socio-economic development that ensure poverty reduction with the ultimate goal of eradicating it, improving the standard and quality of life of the people of Southern Africa.

    The Acting Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo, said it was important for the Region to keep taking stock of progress achieved on employment and labour and to devise means of addresssing the effects of COVID-19. He stated that through the proposed SADC Employment and Labour Policy Framework (2020-2030) and SADC Decent Work Programme (2021-2025) the Region was poised to significantly address decent work deficits through improved coordination between social and economic sectors and enhanced tripartite cooperation. 

    The Deputy Chairperson of the SADC Private Sector Forum, Mr. Harrington Chibanda, emphasised the role played by the private sector in its contribution to minimise the negative impact of COVID-19 by ensuring business continuity while addressing occupational safety and health in the workplace. He highlighted that the Region needed to upscale measures to promotee sustainable equitable economic growth and development, and to effectively address the challenge of poverty and unemployment.  

    The President of Southern Africa Trade Union Coordinating Council, Ms Zingiswa Losi, called for structural transformation which will comprehensively suppress poverty, inequality and unemployment within an overall developmental context in which SADC Member States must play a more active and decisive role. She called upon Member States to ratify and domesticate International Labour Standards, including International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention Number 190 on the elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace. 

    The meeting was also graced by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, Mr. Charles Kwenin, and the ILO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, Ms Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon. They commended strides being made in the Region to enhance the rights and welfare of all workers and expressed commitment to continue supporting the governments and social partners in the quest for decent work and inclusive development. 

    During the meeting, the Ministers and Social Partners:

    • approved key sectoral policy instruments towards realisation of the SADC Vision of a peaceful, inclusive, competitive, middle to high income industrialised Region, where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic well-being, justice and freedom;
    • approved the SADC Employment and Labour Policy Framework (2020-2030) and the SADC Decent Work Programme (2021-2025) which seeks to address decent work deficits, including unemployment and underemployment, which continue to undermine prospects of productive structural transformation and poverty eradication in the Region. Member States committed to do this through enhanced application of fair labour standards and more effective cooperation between governments and the organisations of employers and workers, while taking into account the pressing challenges such as increased inequality, climate change and labour migration;
    • noted with concern that the outbreak of COVID-19 has stagnated and subdued economic gains across all sectors, especially those that depend on global demand such as mining and agriculture, and those that depend on international travel, such as tourism and hospitality, all of which significantly employ the majority of young people; 
    • called upon SADC Member States to continue providing economic stimulus packages and to prioritise investment in employment-focused enterprise recovery; and move to introduce responsive and long-term social protection mechanisms, including unemployment benefit schemes. In addition, Ministers and Social Partners committed to improve working conditions through implementation of strategic workplace initiatives aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, informed by the public health measures and maintaining a balance between disease control and preservation of livelihoods and economic stability;
    • prioritised the development of a new SADC Protocol on Employment and Labour which will include responsive measures to address emerging labour market challenges, such as those posed by rapid technological, climatic and demographic transformations; and
    • commended the International Cooperating Partners (ICPs), notably ILO and IOM for continued cooperation at both the regional and national levels. 

    Remarks by Honourable Ms Margarida Adamugy Talapa

    Remarks by Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo


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