On 25 November 2020, Professor Monray Marsellus Botha in the Department of Mercantile Law of the Faculty of Law (UP Law) at the University of Pretoria (UP), on invitation by the Peripheries of Law Executive Committee of the Paris Institute of Poitical Studies (Science Po), conducted a presentation on ‘Labour Law: The Precariat in Distress’. The co-presenter at this event was Professor Jaivir Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.
During this dynamic webinar, Botha and Singh presented their thoughts on the topic, followed by comments and questions from the virtual audience. Participants were a fairly diverse group, consisting of doctoral candidates, students, and young professionals, with primarily a legal background, or a humanities background engaging strongly with law.
The aim of the webinar was to provide a global reflection on the precarisation (unpredictability, and unpredictable job security, material or psychological welfare) in labour, giving special attention to the needs and perspectives of the peripheries and semi-peripheries of the global order.
According to Sciences Po, “The last few months have made the problem of job insecurity and precarisation ever more pressing. The long and continuous dismantling of the welfare state by neoliberal policies coupled with the advent of new forms of mobilizing labour (such as Uber and Deliveroo) has produced the emergence of a novel version of the so-called precariat, one whose very status as ‘labour’ goes unacknowledged. Meanwhile, the long-established precariat, migrant and daily-wage workers in the informal sector, continues to be deeply marginalised. In times of pandemic, the phenomenon is yet more visible and worrisome; the precariat, both old and new, is bearing the brunt of the social and economic impact of the crisis.
However, the pandemic has also shed light on the importance of a social security net to protect society from market fundamentalism. One of the alternatives to cope with the precarisation of the working conditions has been the universal basic income and one feels that this agenda could gain momentum in a post-pandemic world.”
Botha’s presentation dealt not only with issues related to sustainability, but also how it can be linked to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in context of decent work. He also addressed the issue of movement of precarious workers between the formal and informal economies and better regulation and protection of workers in the informal economy.
Botha also spoke about the impact of corruption, countability as well as corporate governance issues especially combating the high unemployment numbers South Africa is currently facing which currently stands at 30,1%. He also touched on changes in economic policy as well as issues such as responsible unionism and the changing role required of trade unions in moving into the 4IR.
Botha also emphasised that a new social contract is required and that the tri-partite alliance is outdated and that what is required to move South Africa forward is a joint responsibility from government, private citizens and business especially in context of overcoming the systemic problems created by the legacy of apartheid but also the systemic problems created by the current government in dealing with corrupt public officials, state owned enterprises et cetera.
To read more about work previously done by Botha on this theme click on the links below:
Botha’s presentation starts at 36:20 in the link below.