South Africa - Labor

As of 2000, 17 million persons were classified as economically active. Services accounted for 45% of the labor force, agriculture 30%, and industry 25%. Official unemployment was 37% in 2001.

All workers are entitled to form unions and to strike. In 2001, unions had a total membership of about three million or about 31% of the workforce. The Labor Relations Act provides protection to workers. The government does not interfere with collective bargaining. The constitution provides for the rights to unionize and strike, both of which are reinforced by the Labor Relations Act of 1995. In industries and trades where employers and employees are not organized, the Minister of Labor, acting on the advice of the government-appointed wage board, may prescribe compulsory wages and conditions of employment.

The standard workweek was set at 45 hours by legislation in 1997. Some collective agreements provide for three weeks' annual leave, and many industries work a five-day week. Employers must provide satisfactory working conditions and accident-prevention measures. Enforcement of safe working conditions is irregular although the government is making attempts to improve the means of enforcement. The National Economic Forum, a tripartite structure representing labor, business, and government, is involved in nurturing job creation and job training. There is no legally mandated national minimum wage, rather negotiations between labor and management set minimum wage standards industry by industry. Employment of minors under 15 is illegal. The Ministry of Welfare allows exceptions to this for children in some sectors of the economy, and the prohibition against underage laborers is not systematically enforced.

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