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South Africa – Employment services bill approved

13 November 2013

The Employment Services Bill was approved by the South African National Assembly on Tuesday. The Bill makes the country’s labour department responsible for providing public employment services free of charge to jobless South Africans, and matching job seekers with employment opportunities in the private sector.

Introducing the Bill, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said it would go a long way to create decent jobs and sustainable livelihoods for the country's poor. "The strategic objectives will be achieved through institutional arrangements that the department will further establish to provide to citizens for free. The department will regulate private employment agencies providing similar services in the private sector to protect vulnerable workers."

These agencies would be obliged to notify the department of any vacancies or face a fine.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), the Independent Democrats, the Freedom Front Plus, and the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) opposed the Bill.

DA MP Kenneth Mubu said it was a step backwards and would not contribute meaningfully to job creation. He claims that the Bill will place more administrative burdens on businesses, and allowed for massive fines for those who contravened labour laws.

"Government presupposes they can do a better job than the private sector ... this is not the case," Mr Mubu said.

Azapo MP Koti Dikobo said he opposed the Bill because regulating private and temporary employment agencies would not address the abuse of workers' rights. "We have been part of the call for the complete ban on labour brokers. There must be no third party lurking in the shadows.”

The Bill and related legislation were created in response to a rise of an ‘informalisation’ of the labour market. It seeks to ensure compliance with international labour standards, enhance the effectiveness of labour market institutions, and strengthen the labour inspectorate.

The Bill will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.

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