Post Apartheid South Africa Employment Trends Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

South Africa Labor Relations

This report shall deign to cover the broad topic of employee and employer relations in the country of South Africa. While the overall subject of labor relations is an important and vital topic in all countries to some degree or another, South Africa is absolutely one of those countries that has a rich amount of conflict, discrimination, big questions and bigger answers than most other countries. Indeed, the South African history of Apartheid alone makes this subject rather intriguing to cover. Indeed, slavery ended in the United States in 1865 but the Jim Crow era and other racial injustices lingered far beyond that and in some ways still linger to this day. To be sure, the state of labor relations and human resources in South Africa is no different and that shall be covered at great length.

Research Questions & Topics

The subjects that shall be heavily covered and otherwise touched upon in this report shall include stakeholder interests, labor laws, the influence of the political parties and the wider political process, union density, the stronger or weaker sectors in the country and the rights of women and minorities. There will be an exploration of whether a two-tier labor system exists in South Africa given its rather sordid history of maltreatment when it comes to blacks and women in particular. While more distant history is at least somewhat relevant and important to keep in mind, there will be a specific focus on more recent history including the current decade and roughly one or two before that as needed to paint the proper picture.

To put a fine point on what shall be covered in this report, the following main questions, at a bare minimum, shall be answered:

Who are the main stakeholders?

How strong and powerful are these stakeholders?

Is there a level playing field when it comes to employment in South Africa?

What needs to happen for the balance of power to shift in favor of a more just and equal system?

What industry or industries are leading when it comes to societal and cultural progress?

Are union and non-union employees comparable in South Africa or is there a disparity?

What labor law developments have occurred in South Africa in recent years and decades?

Have there been any major strikes or lockouts to speak of? If so, how have these events influenced employee relations?


The overall methodology of this report shall be kept rather simple and streamlined. The research that is being done here will come exclusively from peer-reviewed and other academic journals or equally reputable sources. These sources will be gleaned and culled from academic search engines and websites. The types of data that will be assessed will include quantitative data whenever possible but so much of the minutia involved in the overall subject being covered here comes down to opinion, perception and cultural trends and thus a lot of qualitative data will be part of the data set as well. Irrespective of the type of data being used, there will be a sharp focus on accuracy, legitimacy, validity and reliability of the data that is used and reviewed. If there are disparate and different perceptions involved, there will be a covering of both sides and an overall verdict and assertion will be levied by the author of this report if enough data exists to do so. There will be at least some limitations as none of the information in this report will be gained on a first-hand basis. Further, not all research is perfect and unbiased and this would include academic journal articles. Obviously, faulty or even manufactured data would tend to be rare but the passions and complexities involved in this country and the specific subject of labor relations is without limits in many ways. Just as one example, some people suggest that labor unions are the backbone of the workforce and must be part of any labor relations paradigm. Other people suggest that labor unions actually make things worse and hold people back. The author of this report is not picking a side in that argument. Rather, the author is simply pointing out that the argument exists and there is nothing close to a definitive
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answer when it comes to questions like that. Even discrimination and maltreatment on a cultural or racial basis can be a matter of opinion to some. This is obviously patently false when looking at a high-level view of South Africa given its history and obvious cases of systemic and other racism. However, perceptions about progress form the depravity of Apartheid can actually vary from person to person. To get to the point, perception of racism and lack of a level playing field does not necessarily mean that such a problem exists (at least in a given instance) and this report will proceed from that standpoint when it comes to things that are controversial and subject to analysis and opinion.

Literature Review

When it comes to countries like South Africa, some of the labor relations dilemmas and issues are very complex. Indeed, there are a good many multi-national enterprises (MNE's) that operate in countries like South Africa, Nigeria and Zambia. A study of labor relations was carried out for those three countries from 1950 to 2000. As noted in the prior section, there will be a focus on important historical events overall but more modern events in South Africa will be the primary point of analysis. As a general practice and circumstance, the MNE's that operate in South Africa hold a lot of power and flexibility and this often comer at the expense of the people in the country. This certainly does not go unnoticed as many people actively complain about and condemn the practices that these MNE's engage in. There are a lot of points of argument including levels of pay, the employment of expatriates within the country, negotiation rights for employees (e.g. unionization, etc.) and the list goes on. Many assert that this pattern and string cannot be allowed to go on unchecked as the unrest and animosity from the employees will only grow and fester with time. As stated by many scholars on the matter, "MNE's operating in the extractive industries of Africa will have to improve their relations with local employees in order to bridge the legitimacy gaps that exist" (Eweje, 2009). It is further asserted that an "improved mutual understanding between the MNE's and the trade unions is required for both actors to have a smooth working relationship" (Eweje, 2009). A better idea for foreign countries operating in the country, at least from a humanitarian standpoint, is to use a "softer" approach. When it comes to South Africa, one country that has done this with great efficacy and results is South Korea (Kyu-Deng, 2014). Another country that has engaged with South Africa with a modicum of success would be China. Indeed, it has been found that Chinese economic activities have gained an increasing amount of visibility and this has led to an acceleration of Sino-African relations in the area. There is obviously an amount of interaction and changes that have to occur on both sides to make the partnership work well but it would seem that such changes are well under way (Dittgen, 2015).

One group of organizations that has clearly emerged in South Africa that has tried to allay the concerns of workers and otherwise improve the fortunes of everyone involved are actually not traditional industry at all. Rather, they are non-profit companies that are making a strong effort to bridge the communication divide in South Africa. Indeed, it has been found that one of the major barriers to mutual understanding and peace while engaging in the labor relations debate is the inability to communicate at a high level due to language and cultural differences that exist. These non-profit organizations have stepped up and became "change agents" that allow for the creation of platforms in South Africa. They further assert and practice the idea that corporate identity management is a huge part of building a foundation when it comes to stakeholder relationships. To state the obvious, the employees of the companies within Africa, both international and domestic, are stakeholders of the companies that they work for ... for better or worse (Holtzhausen, 2014).

As for whether there is a level playing field when it comes to labor relations and industry in general, the question itself as well as the answer is multi-faceted and hard to answer with a quick soundbite. Just one dimension of the question and answer that needs to be looked at is the market availability that exists for small-scale producers (i.e. small business owners) in areas of South Africa like Johannesburg. Indeed, this is a very important thing when speaking of a developing country and that designation certainly applies to South Africa and most of the other countries in Africa. Part of this developing country paradigm as manifested in South Africa is a very rapid amount of…

Sources Used in Documents:


Beliard, Y. (2009). Imperial Internationalism? Hull Labour's Support for South African Trade-

Unionism on the Eve of the Great War. Labour History Review (Maney Publishing),

74(3), 319-329. doi:10.1179/096156509X12513818419736

Besada, H., Tok, E., & Winters, K. (2013). South Africa in the BRICS. Africa Insight, 42(4), 1-

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