Today workers around the world are observing Workers’ Day, known as Labour Day in most countries and referred to as May Day in South Africa.

This day is observed to celebrate the achievements of the workers and to spread awareness about the exploitation that the workers face.

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Organised labour has planned various activities across the world to observe the day.

The country’s biggest labour federation, Cosatu, will hold a virtual programme and live stream the event to its members on digital platforms.

ANC President, Cyril Ramaphosa, and SACP General Secretary, Blade Nzimande, will deliver  messages of solidarity to the parties’ alliance partner.

This year marks the second Workers’ Day commemoration since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s May Day came at the height of the total economic shutdown. The aim was to limit the spread of the pandemic and it led to massive job losses.

Lockdown restrictions have since been relaxed, and that has largely allowed for a resumption of economic activity. But the International Labour Organisation (IOL) says, unfortunately, job creation is yet to recover in a significant way.

According to Statistics SA, more than seven million South Africans are without jobs. This means 32.5% of the country’s citizens are unemployed.

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Income inequality, which was already a big problem before the pandemic, is reported to have also become worse. According to Statistics SA’s inequality trends, female workers earn approximately 30% less, on average, than male workers. The report reveals that males are more likely to be employed and have relatively better-paying jobs compared to females.

The earnings distributions were also found to starkly depict the heavily racialised inequality in the South African labour market. Black South Africans were found to earn the lowest wages. Whites, in contrast, earn substantially higher wages than all the other population groups.

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And for Cosatu, the drastic cut of the CCMA budget by over R100 million remains a sore point.

The cut was in line with the government’s controversial austerity measures, aimed at reducing public debt which currently stands at 80% of GDP. However, Cosatu and other stakeholders worry that the budget cuts risk jeorpadising the CCMA’s statutory mandate of enforcing the constitutional rights of especially vulnerable workers in the country.

No big May Day rallies are planned for this year.

Department of Trade and Industry unveils worker ownership schemes: