By upskilling low- and semi-skilled employees, ABET or AET creates dignified work for South Africans.
Adult literacy and numeracy training imparts foundational skills that low- and semi-skilled employees need to continue learning. This is so that they too can improve their circumstances. Without this intervention by employers, many unskilled or semi-skilled workers would be trapped in low-wage jobs. They simply cannot learn new skills without foundational proficiencies.
ABET or AET is in line with the requirements of the Skills Development Act [Skills Development Act 97 of 1998 | South African Government (www.gov.za)]. It expands the knowledge and competencies of the labour force to improve productivity and employment. However, by developing skills, ABET or AET also improves the quality of life of workers. Moreover, it enhances their prospect of work and labour mobility.
Meanwhile, by raising productivity in the workplace, ABET or AET improves the competitiveness of employers. This, alone, is incentive enough for companies to invest in quality ABET or AET for their low- and semi-skilled employees.
The Act also strives to increase the levels of investment in education and training in the labour market. This is in addition to improving the return on that investment.
It also encourages the use of the workplace as an active learning environment to provide employees with the opportunity to acquire new and relevant skills.
Furthermore, it aims to provide prospects for new entrants to the labour market to gain work experience. The Act also focuses on creating employment opportunities for those who are struggling to find jobs.
Importantly, it also strives to improve the employment prospects of persons previously disadvantaged by unfair discrimination. Redress is achieved by providing access to training and education. However, ABET or AET is not only geared towards older adults who were marginalised by the previous regime.
ABET is for the youth
ABET or AET is also for the youth who have not been able to receive a quality education. A case in point are the many young learners who attend poorly resourced schools in the rural areas and townships. Many complete their tuition with the bare minimum in terms of literacy and numeracy skills. Others drop out with very little future prospects. Adult literacy and numeracy training provides them with a second chance to access a quality education.
According to Alliance For Youth, the majority of South African youth do not possess the necessary skills to take up jobs. Meanwhile, opportunities for low and semi-skilled workers are scarce. This is as South Africa’s economy continues to morph into a services-based one that relies increasingly on knowledge workers.
The Census 2022 revealed that there were more than 18,5-million adults in the country who did not hold a National Senior Certificate. Black and coloured people are the most likely not to finish school in South Africa. This is considering their circumstances, which is still a lasting legacy of a previous regime. Refer to Statistics South Africa | Improving Lives Through Data Ecosystems (statssa.gov.za).
According to Statistics South Africa, in May 2023, the total number of unemployed South Africans aged between 15 and 34 years stood at 4,9-million. This is a 1,1% increase from the last quarter of 2022 to 46,4% for the first quarter of 2023.
Black South Africans, especially women, are the most effected by high unemployment. During the third quarter of 2021, the unemployment rate among black South Africans was 39%. This was at least 9% higher than that of coloured South Africans and 30% more than that of white citizens.
ABET contributes to B-BBEE
For this reason, ABET or AET contributes substantially to companies’ Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Score Cards. This is if adult literacy and numeracy training is specifically geared toward African, Coloured and Indian workers. Refer to Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act 53 of 2003 | South African Government (www.gov.za).
Skills development is a priority element to comply with B-BBEE. Companies that do not achieve at least 40% of the target in the Skills Development Scorecard will automatically drop one B-BBEE level.
The scorecard measures the investment companies make in training and developing the internal and external black workforce. Those businesses on the Generic Scorecard must spend at least 6% of their annual payroll on training.
ABET uplifts people
ABET or AET uplifts people by equipping them with important skills, including literacy and numeracy.
Over time, low-wage employment or “LWE” is a worldwide problem and certainly not unique to South Africa. Individuals who perform this type of work earn a wage, but it barely covers the cost of living. They are, thus, also referred to as the “working poor”.
More than 11% of the United States population resides in poor households and have at least one employed member. In Hong Kong, 54% of the population living in poverty comprise the so-called “working poor”. Meanwhile, sub-Saharan Africa’s working poverty rate in 2016 was 33,1% for employees earning less than US$1,90. It was 30% for those individuals earning between US$1,90 and US$3,10 a day.
However, the high incidence of LWE in South Africa remains a concern. Over the years, there has been notable increase in the “informalisation” of employment. Individuals who work in these “informal” sectors do not only earn a very low wage that is insufficient to maintain a decent living. They are also not entitled to any health or retirement benefits. Moreover, many of these individuals endure poor working conditions. They work excessive hours and often in unhealthy and unsafe working environments and are routinely discriminated against. These jobs also do not provide legal protection regarding continuation of employment. There is also no opportunity for skills development so that workers can improve their circumstances.
About 2,5-million South Africans earn a livelihood in the informal sectors either as employees or small business owners. One in every six South Africans who are employed work in these industries. Almost half of these work for businesses that, together, provide about 850 000 paid jobs. This is almost twice the direct employment created by the mining industry.
Employers who invest in ABET
Employers who invest in ABET or AET value their staff. Adult literacy and numeracy training imparts skills that are not only used in the workplace. They are also required to function effectively in all aspects of society outside the world of work.
It is not only the informal industries that are guilty of flouting labour laws.
For example, violations of labour rights are widespread in the agricultural sector. Farm workers are arguably more vulnerable than before. They face ongoing evictions, casualisation and exploitation.
While the South African government believes that the business processing industry is key to employment creation, this sector has not created decent jobs. Workers in this industry tend to stagnate in the same low-level and poorly paid jobs. There are few prospects for promotion or career development. Working conditions are also generally poor. It is estimated that more than 200 000 people work in this industry.
In 2018, 61 mine workers lost their lives while earning a livelihood. That year, three major disasters claimed 18 lives. A further six were lost in a fire- and explosion-related accident. The number of fatalities and injuries in the industry is unacceptable.
Meanwhile, the construction industry experiences 1,5 to 2,5 fatalities a week. Refer to Labour on injuries and fatalities in SA construction sector | South African Government (www.gov.za).
As many as 40% of all workers employed in the retail industry earned less than the minimum wage in 2019.
Cleaners, as well as warehouse, restaurant and retail staff have the lowest earning growth potential.
It is no surprise then that South Africa’s economy was again beset by strikes in 2023.
Already, 9-million work days have been lost to industrial action in which workers demanded increased wages. This is due to rising inflation and interest rates.
ABET for years to come
ABET or AET will remain relevant for many years to come. This is considering the millions of people who require adult literacy and numeracy training.
There are nearly 5,5-million South Africans who are trapped in poverty due to low basic wages. According to Statistics South Africa’s Poverty Trends in South Africa report, a quarter of the country’s population live below the food poverty line. 55,5% live below the upper bound poverty line. Refer to Poverty Trends in South Africa | Statistics South Africa (statssa.gov.za).
Notably, 64,2% of black South Africans live below the upper bound poverty line. Basic earnings for most black South African workers, when dispersed through a family, is a poverty wage. Prior to the introduction of a minimum wage, the median earnings for black South Africans were R2 900 a month. Spread across a family of four, this is R763,16 per capita per month. The upper bound poverty line is R1 138 per capita per month.
Considering rising transport, electricity, education and other essential costs, these individuals seldom have sufficient funds for food.
For a family of five to live a dignified life, a minimum wage needs to be about R 8000 a month. The National Minimum Wage rate is only R3 500 a month.
Many experts agree that the National Minimum Wage will not address our unique socio-economic challenges. It may even exacerbate poverty, inequality and unemployment. Employers only pay what they can afford. If they cannot do so, they implement mitigating factors, such as retrenchments and the shortening of working hours. Some may even mechanise routine and mundane jobs. These places low- and semi-skilled workers at risk of losing their employment. There is already a glut of unskilled, as well as low- and semi-skilled labour in the country that cannot be absorbed by the economy.
ABET builds robust economies
Quality ABET or AET builds robust economies from the bottom up. Adult literacy and numeracy training equips your employees with the absolute basic proficiencies that they need to be productive members of society.
We need a holistic approach to lift South Africans out of poverty. Interventions, such as the introduction of a National Minimum Wage [www.gov.za/sites/default/files/gcis_document/202302/48094gon3069.pdf], on their own will not suffice.
More recently, government also announced intentions of introducing quotas for foreign workers performing unskilled work in some sectors. Reserving these jobs for South African citizens still does not address the problem of the working poor. Refer to Draft National Labour Migration Policy & Employment Services Amendment Bill | PMG.
About 4% of people of working age across South Africa were born outside of the country. Like local workers, many are drawn to the urban hubs or cities where there are more work opportunities.
It is true that a higher percentage of foreign-born South Africans are employed. However, they are more likely to be performing precarious jobs than their South African-born counterparts. They hope to use this opportunity as a stepping stone to obtain jobs in more secure and better paying formal industries.
Many of these workers do not have proper employment contracts. These jobs are also of a very short-term nature and, therefore, provide little security.
Most are employed in the informal sectors and, thus, work for very low wages.
Certainly, many also work in the formal sectors where they are exploited. A case in point is the hospitality sector that provides low paid precarious jobs for both local and migrant workers. However, migrant workers in the hospitality sector are exposed to more abuse by unethical employers than their South African-born counterparts. They also often earn significantly lower wages than is the norm.
ABET supports SDG 8
ABET or AET supports the United Nations’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8. By imparting literacy and numeracy skills, ABET or AET enables people to access decent work. Refer to THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development (un.org).
The South African government and the UN finalised the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for 2020 to 2025. Notably, this is the first-generation Cooperation Framework to be developed under the new guidelines released in 2019. Refer to UNSDG | United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework Guidance. This involved a detailed consultation process that included the private sector, civil society and academia and research institutions. Women and youth also participated. The process affirmed the principles of host government ownership and leadership; multi-stakeholder participation; and alignment to national priorities.
Among others, SDG 8 encourages the promotion of development-orientated policies that support decent job creation. It also strives to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men. This includes young people and persons with disabilities. The goal also emphasises the importance of equal pay for work of equal value. SDG 8 also wants to substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training. It also strives to eradicate forced labour; end modern slavery; and human trafficking. Furthermore, it wants to completely eradicate the worst forms of child labour. SDG 8 also focuses on labour rights and safe and secure working environments for all workers. This includes migrant workers, especially women, and those in precarious employment.
ABET supports NDP
ABET or AET also supports South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) [National Development Plan 2030 | South African Government (www.gov.za)].
The NDP is aligned to the SDGs. It prioritises the elimination of poverty; reduction of inequality; and growing an inclusive economy.
The NDP is also aligned to the African Union’s Agenda 2063. This blueprint guides inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development on the continent over a 50-year period. It also promotes a high standard of living; quality of life; and well-being for all citizens. One of its goals also includes ensuring well-educated citizens and facilitating a skills revolution underpinned by science, technology and innovation. Refer to Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. | African Union (au.int).
Notably, South Africa also participated in the International Labour Organisations’s Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP), which ran from 2010 to 2014. Refer to ilo.org/global/lang–en/index.htm. As part of the initiative, South Africa actively assisted in implementing the Global Jobs Pact. Refer to About the Pact (Global Jobs Pact) (ilo.org). This aligns its policies with the four priorities of the DWCP. They included strengthening fundamental principles and rights at work and promoting employment creation. This is in addition to strengthening tripartism and social dialogue.
Provider of quality ABET
Triple E Training is a leading provider of quality ABET or AET. This includes both adult literacy and numeracy training for workplace and community training.
We have a more than 30 year-long track record supplying ABET or AET to many different industries. Our clients are committed to providing all of their employees an opportunity to improve their lives inside and outside the world of work. Together, we are making an impact on high illiteracy in the country that has trapped so many South Africans in poverty. However, we acknowledge that there is still so much more that needs to be done to make a real difference.
It was Plato who said, “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.”
We agree. Many employees started their lifelong learning journey participating in our ABET or AET programmes. Through our approach to adult literacy and numeracy training, they gained a newfound passion for learning. Many have also passed this love onto their children to break inter-generational illiteracy. Find out more About Triple E Training and our quality adult literacy and numeracy programmes. www.eee.co.za