As a consequence of persistently high unemployment in South Africa, many people are excluded from the formal job market; those who are able to find formal employment remain vulnerable to dismissal and poor working conditions. Trade unions and labour movements have a long history of political engagement within South Africa, however there remains a lack of trust between trade unions, employees, and market powers. Those operating outside of the formal economy or in casual or sub-contracted work are often subject to harassment, abuse, and victimisation. For many, a job with poor working conditions is better than no job at all.
Labour relations and employment reflect both a racial and gendered bias. The Women’s Legal Centre reports that women continue to face discrimination in the workplace and are often employed in the most vulnerable sectors of our economy, if they are employed at all.
For many, the only work they can access is in areas with low barriers to entry such as informal trading, informal recycling, domestic work, and casual work, which is often precarious, and tends to leaves workers vulnerable to victimisation and abuse. Public interest legal service providers in South Africa work to ensure that workers, employers, local governments and police are aware of the rights of formal and informal workers and that those rights are respected.