Welcome back to the world of work.  Hopefully everyone had some rest and recreation and returns back to work refreshed, full of vigour and great health.  Unfortunately, it looks loke we are going into another year of many retrenchments and slow economic growth.  Already the Department of Labour is reporting the latest unemployment figures at 9.8 million and we do know that the treasury has said that the introduction of a national minimum wage would destroy a further seven hundred and fifty thousand jobs.  It is in our estimation that the introduction of a national minimum wage will destroy more than seven hundred and fifty thousand jobs and in fact we believe that the mere message of the forth coming introduction has already retarded growth in many small businesses.  The feedback that we have been getting from small businesses is that they are fearful of creating new jobs as these jobs would become unsustainable under a national minimum wage.

It has been argued and will continue to be argued that the national minimum wage should not be introduced across the board but per sector.  This would to a large degree reflect much of the bargaining council system with refinements.  Many of the bargaining councils are struggling and we believe that the sustainability of the bargaining councils will be challenged during the course of this year.

The economists have warned us that the prospects for employment this year don’t look good.  The business community has spoken through the various Chambers of Commerce and have said that with our growth being less than the rest of Southern Africa, we will expect some hard knocks.

Although the fourth quarter did provide a small amount of job growth, this was coupled with the holiday season, a little bit of retail growth and enormous activity in the tourism sector, annually we see an up-tick in the fourth quarter.  When the results come out of the first quarter of 2018 it is believed that it will be incredibly negative.  The debt level has risen and unfortunately our government has done nothing to alleviate the negative outlook.

The fact that Deputy President Ramaphosa is due to become our next President has already been factored into our economy and it will be interesting to see who actually presents the State of The Nation Address on the 8th February this year.

We are expecting more and more activity in the fourth industrial revolution, we are seeing the growth of the economy mostly in technology, computerisation and employment of people in the high tech area.  Our education system hasn’t kept up with this and we are starting to see jobs being advertised which cannot be filled by our people.  The new investments in the Eastern Cape in the motor industry have built fantastic new production facilities run entirely by machinery.  Although investments of this nature are much needed and lauded, this has not created any jobs at all for our local people.  We have not taken advantage of any state of the art technology and we certainly don’t understand the robotics.  Our tertiary institutions need to bring people to this level and our investment in education is a complete rethink.  In essence, Finance Week have reported that approximately 40% of the workforce will need to adapt to new ways of doing things.  It is reported that 16.2 million South Africans are currently employed but a further 1.4 million people stand to lose their jobs as we become more and more high tech.

In South Africa we have an enormous number of blue collar workers who have very little or no education and it is almost impossible at this stage to try and re-engineer the workforce.  Although we do have a large number of high skilled workers our capacity to adapt to future jobs is below average.

The Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) have reported that they are training more Commissioners and restructuring their administration to handle higher volumes of referrals.  This is indicative of their expectation of more and more disputes during 2018.