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Social Security Issues To Be Prioritised At BRICS Meetings In South Africa

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JOHANNESBURG, Jan 27 (PTI): Social security issues will be on top of the agenda at the BRICS countries meeting to be hosted next month by South Africa, which took over the Presidency of the five-nation bloc from China on January 1 this year.

BRICS is an economic bloc that includes: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Formed on June 16, 2009, South Africa joined BRICS in December 2010.

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South African Department of Employment and Labour’s Acting Deputy Director-General of its Labour Policy and Industrial Relations section Sipho Ndebele said South Africa’s Presidency of BRICS would provide it with an opportunity to promote regional and global issues on the back of skyrocketing unemployment and the health fallout created by the pandemic.

The Department of Employment and Labour is gearing itself to host the first in a series of meetings of the BRICS countries’ Employment Working Group (EWG) in February.

The BRICS Research Network Forum will also meet simultaneously.

“At the apex of discussions will be social security issues. This series of EWG and Research Network Forum meetings will culminate with the EWG Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting in September 2023,” Ndebele said.

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The first BRICS EWG and Research Network Forum meetings will be held from February 21-24, 2023 just outside Johannesburg.

“We envisage the two forums’ meetings to discuss priority issues in the technical meetings in preparations for the Labour and Employment Ministerial meeting,” Ndebele said.

This will be the third time South Africa takes the reins of the Presidency of BRICS for a year, this time amidst the global crisis brought on by issues such as Covid-19, sharp rises in food prices, fertilisers, energy, interest rates, currency depreciation, stagflation and unemployment.

Some of these issues have been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. South Africa’s theme for its Presidency is: “Ensuring decent work, dignity and respect for all!”

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The theme will focus on building sustainable enterprises, including new forms of employment and increasing productivity; promoting labour rights and decreasing decent work deficits in the context of the recovery; universal social protection and ensuring minimum basic income; and promoting decent work by closing skills gaps in the informal economy.

In a drive to ensure the support of global initiatives for a human-centred recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, South Africa has also invited countries such as Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The African Union has also been invited.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA) will provide technical support during the meetings.

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