BRICS Employment Working Group Meetings (EWG)
In 2014, the Presidential Summit of the BRICS member countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – called for the inclusion of the issues of labour and employment, social security, and social inclusion public policies in its agenda. Following this resolution, the First BRICS Labour and Employment Ministers’ meeting (LEMM) was held in Ufa, Russia, in 2016. The LEMM recognised that the employment pillar was essential and thus laid the foundation of the BRICS Employment Working Group (BEWG). Today, the labour market deliberations add to many issues that the BRICS formation considers important, e.g., finance, foreign affairs, trade, etc.
Over time, these areas of cooperation have widened to include topical global issues, and employment creation is today one of the critical topics under the challenging economic climate typified by low growth, energy problems, political conflict, supply chain disruptions and joblessness. The countries are now at the forefront of shaping the discourses concerning the functioning and development of labour markets and job creation. This task is now even more pronounced following the economic and social challenges created by the pandemic.
South Africa seeks to sustain the present momentum that aims to contribute to the existing spirit among the BRICS countries of recovering and growing together from the massive social and health fallout created by the pandemic. It is also important for the BRICS member countries to support not only the global initiatives for ensuring speedy recovery, such as the UN Global Accelerator for Jobs and Social Protection and ILO Global Call to Action for a Human-centred Recovery from the COVID-19 crisis but also to play an active role in setting the global economy on a recovery path that will benefit scores of people who were impacted by the events of the last few years. To foster continuity of the ongoing efforts to ensure that the BRICS countries remain competitive and sustainable even post the pandemic, it is proposed that South Africa champions the current drive under the following all-encompassing theme:
“Ensuring decent work, dignity and respect for all”
Besides the fallout from the pandemic, the turbulences that occurred in the global market during the last few years due to factors such as globalised production, non-standard forms of employment, poor economic outcomes, and political uncertainty exposed the fragilities in the traditional workplace as well as resulted in less certainty for the welfare of workers. These realities necessitate a new approach for the social partners in ensuring better protection, guaranteed wages and fair treatment of workers while at the same time striving to achieve economic growth, innovation and profitability. It follows that South Africa will seek to build on the achievements of the past years, culminating in the work attained under the guidance of China.
The journey towards economic recovery cannot be divorced from decent work, labour rights at work and dignity through social protection and skills upgrading to enhance productivity, innovation and competitiveness. The economic imperatives must be balanced with the desired social outcomes to ensure a safe, better and progressive world for all.
It is, therefore, proposed that the BRICS countries should look deeply into the following four priorities to support the broad theme introduced earlier on.