I remember well when the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 3 of 1983 was replaced by the ‘new’ Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 75 of 1997. It was presented as part of the changes of the then still ‘New South Africa’ and pretty euphoric stuff.

One of the things of the new act that struck me was the subtle but critical change of the definition of ‘casual work’. Instead of defining ‘casual work’ as a person working less than 24 hours per month and making it exempt from minimum wages, leave, sick leave and UIF, it was simply removed from the Act and replaced with a simple exclusion for working hours, leave, particulars of employment and termination of employment for employees working less than 24 hours per month.

I honestly wonder how many people work less than 24 hours per month in terms of these exclusions. Probably nobody. Not one.

Think about it. What job would require you work less than 3 days per month?

I was a casual worker during my studies and to this day I am grateful for the opportunity and the little I earned because it went a long way to cover my expenses as a student. I had no leave, no sick leave, no Uif or other benefits but I was fine with it. I worked Friday afternoons and Saturdays as a salesman at Edgars and got paid a fixed rate for the two days.

Imagine this was reintroduced how many casual jobs would be created as all my clients could use another hand helping during the busy days of a week. The inelasticity of the supply of labour is crazy in periods of high unemployment.

We all know the answer is to find the political will to do what is best for the country on the medium and long term. However, elections are driven on the short term. Pity.

My suggestion? Please reintroduce the concept of casual work into the South African labour market. I might just create those entry level jobs our country is so sadly lacking.

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