If you attack people for employing people, expect less and less-desirable jobs to exist, and for employees whose productivity would drive our economy's engine, to move elsewhere, and drive the engines of other economies.
A woman asks what to pay a gardener if she needs one, and what hours and conditions of employment are right. While some helpfully point out the legal requirements, and the going rates and practices in the area, the inevitable comment is posted, this time about food. The poster, a university educated black woman, insists that employers who don't serve their 'helper' lunch are essentially the devil.
Similar attacks are made on employers who allow their domestic worker (maid or gardener) to wear their work clothes outside of their place of employment (as though they were a toddler or pet the employer has a right to dress or prevent from wearing what the employee happens to want, outside of work), or who don't buy their child's nanny a steak dinner when going out, as though she were part of the family, in the sense of a 'one of the family' pet, rather than what they are, an employee, if I read the anti-employer Facebook posts' attitudes right.
I suspect that the dignity of unemployment is not preferred by such employees, to having a livelihood and the ability to feed their children. In fact, many employees who are given lunch at work, take it home to feed their children. Some would prefer payment in cash than in kind, after all, domestic workers are human beings, not beloved pets, often, they may prefer to buy their own food, for less or better quality or nutrition, in their financial planning goals.
A while back, a farmer was crucified by South Africans, in their nasty views of him, because he dared to let a woman of a different race take a ride in his livestock cage in the back of his pickup truck. Apparently, she had not only asked for a lift, but had preferred the fresh air due to her health at the time. The result is likely that less farmers will be prepared to give strangers lifts.
Most people of my generation, myself included, have no intention of ever hiring a domestic worker in South Africa. Why bother, when employers are treated as the devil, and already on probation, no matter what.
South Africa's government, and a highly misguided local Catholic Church, has compared some jobs, such as those which migrant labour travels hundreds of kilometres to perform, to slave labour. Minimum wages, have solved that problem quite effectively, as farmers have sold and emigrated, or switched to less labour intensive crops, causing South Africa to have to import food, and giving the workers involved the great and kind dignity of having no way to feed their families.
South Africans have two very distinct reputations in the workplace, those of expat South Africans, who are known as incredibly hard workers, and those of the average South African semi-skilled worker, and recent social grant paid for university graduate. The word 'entitlement' is often used by local employers wishing to find someone who will take the bull by the horns and work with enthusiasm.
Whenever a law firm advertises a job where an intern must have a car, or driver's licence, cries of racism, and attack after attack on the law firm commence. This despite the fact, that many black South Africans own cars, and that the job for a paid intern, a candidate attorney, in a law firm, usually involves serving documents on other law firms, filing them in time at court, and court appearances, etc. All of which require reliable and timeous transportation.
I have often pointed out that if all the firms who demanded candidates have cars were prevented from doing so, and thus could not afford the cost to firm of an intern, those competing for jobs where cars are provided by the firm would be competing against hundreds of more candidates for each job of that nature. Most firms which don't demand a candidate with a car, are situated in the centre of town, where no car is required by many such firms. Take away the jobs you see as bad, and the demand for jobs you see as good sky-rockets, and every candidate for an internship has to not only offer more to get the job, but is likely to get less in return.
Something similar happens when laws protecting tenants from rent increases are passed. It stops being as profitable to rent out property, and so many new developments never happen, and rent protected apartments seldom are maintained or kept up to standard by landlords.
Minimum wages, and hounding employers for paying less than sentiments prefer, usually just make it illegal or undesirable to hire the young, new graduates, and those needing to be upskilled. Candidate attorneys, for instance, are competing with legal secretaries and messengers and drivers for similar work, but messengers, legal secretaries and drivers don't need to be extensively upskilled to be of any value to a firm. Firms take into account the hassle of hiring someone into what they pay them. If you aren't worth the effort, you won't get the work.
In the legal industry, if interns wanted the industry to give them better pay and conditions on average, allowing more firms to afford hiring candidates, would mean less candidates compete for each job, forcing firms to offer more to get them. Instead, government has pumped out so many law graduates, that few get work in industry, and even fewer stay in industry longterm.
Any money paid for an employee is ultimately paid by the customer in the end of the day.
And yet, employees in South Africa so often have an entitlement attitude. The employer is almost seen as owing them reparations for the fact the employer has etched out a better living than the employee. South Africa officially has the worst labour relations in the world, ranking 137th of 137 countries surveyed.
Employers are seen as the bad guy in South Africa. Extensive labour laws, and a conciliation process which are designed to force employers to bend the knee, make hiring any potential new talent a massive risk. South African youth often complain that all the jobs advertised demand years of experience, while they are just out of university or high school. They usually have to get work with jobs not advertised, which nonetheless see many people competing for them. Make it easier to fire an employee, and it is easier for that employee to find another job when fired or retrenched, because employers will take more risk. Make it easier to fire an employee, and you don't need them vetted by past employers, as extensively, to reduce risk. South Africa has such terrible youth unemployment, as it is such a risk to take a chance on an untried youth.
While vaunted by the government, black economic empowerment has also bled the economy dry. Why would whites, who often have the savings, build or expand a firm, if they have to give large portions of it away? How to compete with the international market, when it is illegal to hire the best person for the job? In skilled industries, important jobs just go vacant. South Africa's skilled and university educated population does not adhere to the demographics of the population as a whole, leaving skilled employees who would work hard for a job, locally, unemployed, and employers unable to find workers they can legally hire. Government literally threatening for example UCT with having its accreditation for its LLB (law degree) taken away if it did not pass more black students, and a university industry which does its best to pass the right number of graduates of the right demographics, will not solve this, as making university easier to pass, or easier to pass for some races and not others, negates the value of a university degree as something difficult to get. Students who went to top private schools, are still likely to outcompete students who have government education, if what union controlled government schools do can be called education.
The Pareto Principle and Price's law indicate that a very small portion of a population will always be the most productive. It is why retrenchments at a firm often cause a death spiral. Employees who are worth something, leave, leaving the less productive co-workers behind. There are fascinating graphs showing the South African economy and emigration from South Africa, and the dramatic loss of productivity as the young and skilled take skills they can't use locally, to foreign shores. Why live and work in a country, where your skin colour hurts your future? And why stay in a country, where the economy is going down, because many of the best skilled, and most educated are leaving, and causing the country's economy, which is always something which is based on productivity, to lose steam?
The upcoming expat tax, for another example of South Africa's bizarre treatment of productive people, is likely to cause many South Africans who are testing the waters overseas, to pay the price and financially emigrate, meaning it would be expensive for many of them to return for the five years following that, without paying the South African government quite a bit for a failed financial emigration, thus keeping even more productivity out of the economy.
South Africans overseas, in contrast, have a much vaunted reputation for being hard workers, and highly capable. Why not, though? These are people happy to just have a decent job at decent pay, where they felt they had no or a far lesser future in South Africa. They are also often raised under a capitalist mindset, contrasting the Marxist theories of exploitation that are so pervasive in South Africa, itself.
As long as employers are presumed guilty until proven innocent, and are treated as potential bad guys off the bat, South Africa will continue to lose both its best potential employers, and many of those employees who want to be judged on the merit of their productivity, and how well they personally do their job, to places who value both.
Nothing in this essay constitutes, or in any way should be relied upon as, legal advice. For that, make an appointment with your attorney, disclosing all the nuances of your specific matter to them.
Written by Marc Evan Aupiais.
Monday 8 July 2019
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