07 Jun

While the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is manifesting itself in real terms, but are workers ready to grow their skillset to stay abreast of changing times?

The world of work is changing as companies and workers are adjusting to the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic that forced them to change the way they work as well as their customer behaviour.

Customers go where they find the best, speediest and most affordable delivery of products or services – and the retail sector is dealing with serious competition from digital market disruptors who offer exactly that.

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on South Africa’s economy with countless businesses permanently closing down and many who have lost their jobs. 4IR made it possible for employees to work from home while it enabled others to start businesses from their homes. Indeed, over the past decade freelancing has become the new norm of 4IR with many workers doing business with a variety of clients.

Freelancers are tax-paying members of our society, and while many chose to be self-employed, even more are doing so because they were forced out of full-time employment for a variety of reasons. They succeeded, against all odds and in a difficult economy, in making a life outside of formal employment instead of becoming a burden on the state.

Strangely, this self-sufficient and self-employed sector’s rights are not addressed in South Africa’s labour laws. It seems that, as far as the state is concerned, they do not exist. Without a traditional job and a full-time employment contract, freelancers are not covered by the South African Labour Relations Act, CCMA or bargaining councils.

This means that self-employed independent professionals often face uncertainty when dealing with the various corporates and other entities they contract themselves to.

UASA’s newly launched Independent Professional Sector not only assists with the reviewing of contracts but also offers legal advice or representation at mediations or in court for members.

South Africa’s future workforce will need to align its skillset to keep pace with these developments.

Technological advancements through artificial intelligence, automation and robotics combined with Covid-19 will continue to challenge the workplace. While technological advancements will mainly affect lower tier workers whose jobs will be replaced by robots, who is to know exactly how Covid-19 will change the world and who will be affected?

As today’s skills will not necessarily equip us for the workplace of tomorrow, we need to position ourselves such that we are ready to move with the changes. We can look at the future in different ways: We can deny that change is coming, get caught sleeping, and then suffer the consequences or we can identify the changes, the good it brings, and equip workers with the necessary skills to drive the change we want to see in the workplace.

UASA, as part of organised labour, says we should not lessen our focus on IR4 due to other factors. The focus should be on saving jobs while equipping the next generation of employees with the necessary tools required to be part of the changing world.

The UASA Independent Professional Sector can be contacted at 076 465 9183.

For further enquiries or to set up a personal interview, contact Stan Mazhindu at 074 978 3415.

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