The Future of Work Capsules: Decent Work and Economic Growth for the African Region

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Baptista Sarah Gebu (Mrs.)

Baptista is a Hybrid Professional. As a human resource professional, she holds a broad generalist background. Building a team of efficient & effective workforce is her business. Affecting lives is her calling!  She is an HR Generalist, strategic planner, innovative, professional connector and a motivator. You can reach her via e-mail on [email protected]  You can follow this conversation on Linked-In: Baptista Sarah Gebu and on twitter @SarahTista.  Call or WhatsApp: +233(0)262213313/ 0243213313.  Follow the hashtag #theFutureofWorkCapsules #FoWC

Happy 64th Independence anniversary to all Ghanaians! 64 years in the life of a nation is worth celebrating.

Ghana’s annual Independence Day anniversary parades and related activities have been suspended nationwide, for the first time, due to the upsurge in the covid-19 active cases in the country as reported by Ghana Times newspaper. The future of work suggests some new normal. Odd as it may be to some – odd normal, and interesting as it seems to others, it will surely come to pass.

From the United Nations Economic and Social Council, I virtually joined the ongoing hybrid 7th session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development held from Congo Brazzaville from Monday March 1-4, 2021. This is convened under the theme “Building forward better: Towards a resilient and green Africa to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.” The background papers on decent work and economic growth; progress report on sustainable development goal 8 in Africa submitted by the International Labour Organization caught my attention. Let’s discuss the progress made as reported by the ILO in its report to the forum.

According to the report, “Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals seeks to promote Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. It reaffirms the mutually inclusive relationship between economic, social and environmental policies, full employment and decent work. Goal 8 is inextricably linked to other goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For instance, achieving goal 8 is crucial for ending all forms of poverty and ensuring that no one is left behind, because obtaining decent employment is the most direct and sustainable pathway out of poverty. Importantly, in order to ensure achievement of Goal 8, progress will also be required on other Sustainable Development Goals, such as Goal 1 (no poverty), Goal 2 (zero hunger), Goal 3 (ensuring good health and well-being), Goal 5 achieving gender equality), Goal 10 (reducing inequalities) and 16 (promoting peace, justice, and strong institutions) and vice  versa”.

In my previous article  – “investing in people’s capabilities, institutions of work and in decent and sustainable work” I mentioned that, the ILO called on governments to commit to a set of measures to address the challenges caused by unprecedented transformational change in the world of work now part of the new normal.

A Universal Labour Guarantee, social protection from birth to old age and an entitlement to lifelong learning are among ten recommendations made in a landmark report by the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work. In that report co-chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven; the commission outlines a vision for a human-centered agenda that is based on investing in people’s capabilities, institutions of work and in decent and sustainable work.  Among the ten recommendations included calls for:

  • A universal labour guarantee that protects fundamental workers’ rights, an adequate living wage, limits on hours of work and safe and healthy workplaces.
  • Guaranteed social protection from birth to old age that supports people’s needs over the life cycle.
  • A universal entitlement to lifelong learning that enables people to skill, reskill and upskill.
  • Managing technological change to boost decent work, including an international governance system for digital labour platforms.
  • Greater investments in the care, green and rural economies.
  • A transformative and measurable agenda for gender equality.
  • Reshaping business incentives to encourage long-term investments.

These recommendations if implemented by governments and nations will promote decent work. What then is decent work?  Decent work sums up to the desires of people in their working lives. The ILO looks at it as “It involving opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men”.

According to the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), the elements of decent work include, Job creation, rights to work including right to just and fair wages addressing minimum wage issues, “equal work for equal pay” the Ghanaian Labour law purports as well as social protection targeted at the right age group and social groups among others.  On Job Creation – no one should be banned from their desired work due to lack of employment opportunities. The issue of Ghana’s maternity leave duration rectification is still pending. I provided my thoughts on the leave duration, its benefits and recommendations for funding in my articles on _ “Ghana’s maternity leave duration and its effects on family health development”. Maternity leave duration offers benefits to the mother, the child, the organization as well as the nation.

According to the Survey Labour report “the total unemployment rate is recorded as 11.9 percent, and is higher for females (12.5%) than for males (11.5%). This indicates that females are more likely to be unemployed than males. Unemployment is also highest amongst the persons with education (except at tertiary level) than among those with little or no education – the unemployment rate is 19.3% for senior high school leavers, 11.3% for junior high school leavers or Basic Education Certificate Examination holders, and 7.3% for persons with tertiary qualifications”. This was presented to the 7th Parliament of Ghana by His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo in the coordinated programme of economic and social development policies 2017-2024 document – Agenda for jobs presented on October 20, 2017.

On Rights at Work, including minimum wage – Workers rights include the right to just and favourable conditions, approval for employee leave days for recuperation – days off, non-discrimination and living wages for them and their families, amongst others. Social Protection looks at instances where all workers should have safe working conditions, adequate free time and rest, access to benefits like healthcare, pension, and parental leave, until recently governmental support for ailing businesses and SME’s among many others. On Social Dialogue – workers should be able to exercise workplace democracy through their unions (if applicable) and negotiate their workplace conditions as well as national and international labour and development policies.

Ghana as a country has rolled up a number of social protection policies up until now. According to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection – “the social protection policies provide a good opportunity to demonstrate action on Ghana’s endorsement of the SDGs”. The country has benefitted from a number of these social protection interventions since 2003 to include, The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) (2003) – Exemptions and the Basic Education Capitation Grants, Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) (2005), Capitation Grant (2005), and Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) (2008). The Ghanaian governments over the period, putting in efforts to eradicate abject poverty for instance with the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) program, planting for Food and Jobs and other programmes such as the FREE SHS is to considerably eradicate poverty. Has this been the case?

The issue of targeting and politicization has been high on the agenda for most CSO’s on the subject. How do we go about our targeting?.  Donor funding sustainability, delay in grant transfer of funds is some of the notable challenges identified.  Taking decisions for beneficiaries without their concern and input is another challenge. Diversity and inclusion is very important. The introduction of these social protection policies should not hold up the implementation and development of other sector needs such as basic necessities – food, proper medical care, shelter and education among others.

“Promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all remain one of the most daunting challenges facing the African continent. Even before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, economic growth on the African continent had not been inclusive and fast enough to absorb the growing labour force in the formal economy” the report added. In fact, the majority of the labour force is in the informal economy. While unemployment rates in Africa are generally low, informal employment is widespread and is estimated at about 86%. Informal employment is often characterized by lower productivity, lower pay, limited social protection coverage, high levels of working poverty, and lack of rights. There are also more women than men in informal employment. The lack of sufficient full, productive and decent jobs is complicating efforts to end poverty on the continent and ensure prosperity for all.

A journey of a thousand miles always begins with a step. For the informal sector, government as well as all entrepreneurs must commit to the set of measures geared towards poverty alleviation. During the “For Better Business Together – 4BBT” launched in 2020, the government together with its foreign partners proposed plans to helping support the informal sector in Ghana. The ministry in charge must make efforts to making the plans know by creating awareness, follow proper targeting, provide adequate education on the subject and clearly demonstrate their efforts to helping entrepreneurs. Thinking global whiles acting local could support scalability and sustainability agenda of entrepreneurs.

The background papers on decent work and economic growth; progress report on sustainable development goal 8 in Africa submitted by the International Labour Organization reported that “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the underlying labour market challenges and inequalities with such effects as worsening the gender gaps in the labour market. Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has undone many of the economic and employment gains that the continent had made over the past few years. Economic growth is projected to decline by 2.6 per cent, potentially pushing 29 million people into extreme poverty. I want to add that, in the 21st century, a lot of the jobs and work needs may not necessarily demand the use of a university degree. Be agile, get online and learn a new skill. Life skills and technical vocational education and training offer an easy pathway to job creation. Do a personal self-assessment to know what skill set you poses? Follow my soft skills articles to learn more on that subject matter. Your ability to learn, unlearn and relearn is what will render you employed in this 21st century and not necessarily because you can read and write. Try not to be part of the 29 million people protected to be pushed into extreme poverty. To employing organizations and clients, please be flexible as the transformational unprecedented change to work assumes a global paradigm.

Moreover, according to the 2020 estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO), “Africa suffered total working hour losses of 1.9% during the first quarter of 2020, 15.6% in the second quarter, and 11.5% in the third quarter.  This translates into huge losses in absolute numbers of 7 million, 60 million, and 43 million during the first, second and third quarters respectively. Women and young people have been disproportionately affected”.

“Importantly, past economic growth has failed to result in structural transformation. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to make economies and labour markets more resilient and sustainable. It may also, however, provide an opportunity for African countries to craft a job-rich, inclusive, sustainable and equitable recovery through social dialogue among governments, and also organized business and workers.  Africa is undergoing a rapid demographic transition. As a result of strong population growth, the population of Africa is projected to double by 2050.”  CNBC news on world economy published on July 30, 2015 has it that “The Earth will be quite a bit more crowded in 2050—with nearly 2.5 billion more people than now.  By 2050, 1 in every 4 people on Earth will be African” and the report expects Africa to be the only region that will continue to grow after 2050.

In addition, by 2055, the continent’s youth population (aged 15–24), is expected to be more than double the 2015 total of 226 million. A huge proportion of the growing youth population in Africa lives in rural areas, where employment and economic opportunities are limited and labour productivity is relatively low. Young women and youth with disabilities are at a greater disadvantage. While growth in the working age population presents an opportunity for Africa to reap a demographic dividend, this will depend on sufficient economic opportunities and labour demand being created to absorb the growing population into productive and decent employment. See the rates of growth of real GDP from the department of economic and social affairs. From the IMF on growth of GDP from 2016 – 2020.

Look no further for support in navigating your way through in management, policy design and assessment of soft skills as a vital trend for the future. FoReal HR Services is available to offer professional business support in this regards. Write to us today [email protected] Call or WhatsApp: +233(0)262213313. We are available virtually as well.

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