The Right to Decent Work

Realising the Right to Decent Work in South Africa

Access to decent work has been an ongoing struggle in South Africa for more than 300 years. Colonialism and apartheid brought many forms of deprivation to indigenous South Africans, including a loss of productive lands, the devastation of community and local economies, and the relegation of ‘non-whites’ to second class citizens. Punitive taxes, racist education and brute force combined to force Blacks to become low-paid labourers in the country’s white-owned industries, particularly mining. The establishment of a migrant labour system, a large reserve labour force and a two-tier employment system were key goals of both the colonial and apartheid systems of government. The democratic government thus inherited a highly unequal economy in which Whites inhabited the vast majority of positions of power and were able to command decent wages and conditions of employment, while the majority had little-to-no access to decent work. 2018 01 21 SPII Right to Work_Complete (2)  

SPII Working Paper No 15 - Indicators to Monitor the Progressive Realisation of the Right to Decent Work in South Africa - September 2017

SPII’s Socio-Economic Rights Monitoring Tool set out to unpack the core content of this right and to develop indicators which could be used to monitor the progressive realisation of the right to work in South Africa. A sister publication, ‘Realising the Right to Work in South Africa’ explores what policy and budgetary steps may need to be taken to ensure that this right is respected and fulfilled both in law and in practice.

SPII Right to Decent Work People's Guide

In 2015, South Africa ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the International Covenant). As well as signalling a renewed commitment by government to ensure that everyone has access to all their socio-economic rights – including access to quality education, sufficient food and water, adequate housing, social security, and a healthy environment – by signing up to implement the Covenant, the government also committed to ensuring that all South Africans have access to decent work and an adequate standard of living for themselves and their family.