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The impact that flexicurity may have on the Private Employment Sector of South Africa

Flexicurity in South-Africa

Flexicurity in South-Africa

In a globalized labour market only the countries that can respond rapidly to market flexiations will be successful and attract sought-after international investments. Simultaneously this is also the era that the concept of decent work is the motto of workers. The answer of Europe to the tension between labour market flexibility and the demand of workers for more employment security is the concept of flexicurity. The European Commission (EC) considers flexicurity as an integrated strategy to simultaneously enhance flexibility and security in the labour market.[1]

The recent invitation of South Africa to join the BRICS-coalition of Brazil, Russia, India and China increased the pressure on the country for a labour law system that is flexible and promote an active labour market policy. At the same time the South African Government is under pressure from organized labour to ensure decent work and to find solutions for the problems of the temporary employment sector (TES).

According to the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma the goal of the government is clear: “We want to have a country where millions more South Africans have decent employment opportunities, which has a modern infrastructure and a vibrant economy, and where the quality of life is high”[2] The government released a growth plan last year that has the ambitious goal to create five million jobs by 2020 and bring South Africa’s unemployment rate down to 15%.


One of the strategies the South African government identified to improve the lives of workers is to review the legislation on private employment agencies (labour brokers).[3]This includes proposed amendments to the legislation relating to temporary (fixed term) contracts. The proposals may have drastic implications for workers as the amendments are directed to the improvement of the quality of work life, but the actual effect can be that it will have a detrimental impact on job creation.


The unemployment rate for South Africa is currently 24%.[4] The unemployment rate is the number of the unemployed people as a percentage of the workforce. The people who gave up looking for a job are not part as the unemployed figure. According to the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE)[5], only 41% of the population of working age (16- 64 years) have a job in the formal or informal sector. The Centre estimates that to reach the international norm of 60% employment, the country would require 19 million jobs that are nearly 50% more than the existing jobs in the formal and informal sector.


China is viewing South Africa as the gateway to the African continent but uncertainty exists concerning the possible effect that these market-unfriendly labour legislation developments may have on possible external investment in the country.[6]


In this thesis it will be argued that to limit temporary posts and outlaw the temporary employment sector will not improve job creation and decent work in South Africa, but will actually accomplish the opposite.


It will be argued that the experience of the EU with flexicurity can be applicable and usable for South Africa in balancing decent work with economic growth, job creation and labour market flexibility. 

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