Cape Town – President Cyril Ramaphosa says there is need for global leaders to address unequal access to labour markets and income inequality.
Speaking at the World of Work Summit in Geneva, Switzerland, he highlighted social justice as a crucial element for sustainable development and the promotion of meaningful and sustainable employment opportunities.
The summit is hosted by the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation (ILO) with that organisation’s 111th conference to be held on the sidelines.
The president called for the removal of structural barriers that hinder equal access to opportunities, including discrimination based on gender, age, race, and migration status.
He said social justice remains a “fundamental pillar of sustainable development” which can enhance opportunities for meaningful and sustainable work.
“That means we must remove the structural barriers that hamper equal access to opportunities. We must prioritise the removal of discrimination based on gender, age, race, migration status and other grounds.
“Institutions must deliberately work to dismantle these barriers, while actors in society should work towards eliminating discrimination and ensuring equal treatment for all. We must create platforms for open and inclusive discussion, where all stakeholders can contribute their perspectives. Social dialogue allows us to harness our collective wisdom and find solutions that reflect the needs and aspirations of all segments of society,” he said.
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Ramaphosa also focused on the issue of income inequality, emphasising the role of wage policies and collective bargaining in reducing disparities and achieving a fair distribution of economic progress.
He called for increased labour earnings for non-wage workers, particularly those at the lower end of the income distribution.
“Wage policies and collective bargaining have a vital role in reducing income inequalities and ensuring a just distribution of economic progress.
“We must focus on increasing the labour earnings of non-wage workers, who often find themselves at the lower end of income distribution. Social partners all have a role to play in narrowing income gaps and promoting fair and equitable societies. Social partners also need to collaborate to foster productivity and ensure that its gains are shared fairly,” he said.
The president also highlighted the need to support workers in the informal economy by extending social protection, providing access to quality healthcare and education, and facilitating their transition to formal employment.
“At the same time, we must extend social protection to workers in the informal economy, provide them with access to quality health care and education, and support their transition to formal employment. By aligning education and skills development with the demands of the job market, we can enhance productivity, sustainability and decent work opportunities,” the President said.
He emphasised the importance of aligning education and skills development with the demands of the job market to enhance productivity, sustainability, and decent work opportunities.
Ramaphosa called on leaders to demonstrate their commitment to social justice through concrete actions, such as implementing policies that foster job creation, entrepreneurship, fair wages, and working conditions for all workers.
He also urged support for organisations that advocate for social justice and called for unity among member states and stakeholders to realize the proposed Global Coalition for Social Justice.
“At a time of great uncertainty, amid heightened geopolitical contestation, we need to work together to safeguard the mandate and critical work of institutions like the International Labour Organisation. We should not allow ourselves to be diverted from the path of social justice by partisan interests.
“I urge all member states, organisations and stakeholders to join forces and contribute to the realisation of the proposed Global Coalition for Social Justice. Together, we can create a world where every individual, regardless of their background or circumstance, has equal access to opportunities, rights and a decent quality of life.
“May this Summit be a catalyst for the fundamental global change we seek towards the achievement of social justice for all,” President Ramaphosa said.
Compiled by Betha Madhomu