Many factors impact on success when looking for a job. Certain industry practices are deliberately established to reduce an applicant’s bargaining power during the recruitment process.
Bargaining power is when people participating in a negotiation process feel like they are on an equal footing.
The Political Economy of Recruitment in South Africa
When we look at the political economy of recruitment, it means we are analysing and identifying all the factors that impact on the process.
- how do firms recruit?
- how do they compete for candidates?
- do their adverts show forms of discrimination?
- do they operate lawfully?
- what norms and standards do they adhere to?
- what conflict exists between firms, recruiters and applicants?
Defining ‘the political economy’ of something
Political economy is a term used for studying production and trade, and their relations with law, custom, and government, as well as with the distribution of national income and wealth.
In simple terms, the political economy explains why we do things the way we do and what the impacts are.
Recruitment Policy Context
Given the high levels of poverty and unemployment in South Africa, we must look at factors that influence pro-poor recruitment or that disrupt it.
Pro-poor recruitment describes a policy approach that considers inclusion, rights and fair process. This approach would consider the benefits of providing information to applicants so their decision to apply is an informed one.
Neoliberal recruitment policies assume that if a party to a negotiation is uninformed, it’s a firms right to take advantage. Economists call this an asymmetric information advantage as it benefits firms during wage negotiations.
Firms who demand pay slips from applicants do so to benefit from confidential competitor information.
Pay slips to lock applicants into limited salary ranges that limit employees throughout their careers.
This is price fixing.
Neoliberalism shifts control of economic factors to the private sector and away from the public sector. For example, if government decided not to regulate medicines, we would see more fake products in pharmacies. If government did not set minimum wages, employers would pay as low as possible.
WHO ARE JOB APPLICANTS?
When a firm decides to publicly advertise vacancies, they usually reach out to:
- unemployed citizens (many who are classified poor)
- new market entrants
- employed candidates seeking an alternative.
RECRUITMENT FUNCTION OR DYSFUNCTION?
Recruitment is an economic function occurring against a backdrop of poverty, social inequality and income inequality.
Many job seekers are poor or disadvantaged in terms of experience, education, colour, skill and even the ability to fit in.
Recruitment is dysfunctional when it sets objectives and standards that are explicitly against the interests of society and destroys the ability to drive a wage competition for talent.
This means that when firms have agreed to recruitment patterns that rob South Africans of their rights and they ignore existing legislation, they force the population to accept unfair and unequal wage systems. They legitimise a system maintaining inequality and prejudice.
Unregulated Recruitment Builds An Unequal Society
Oxfam’s Inequality Report: An economy for the 99% in SA highlights particular myths that extend the life of poverty and expand inequality endlessly into the future.
Studies show that gender based and racist pay gaps exist in South Africa.
Add South Africa’s high rate of abuse against women, we have a trapped gender held hostage economically and socially.
Fact: Jobs are scarce, unemployment levels have increased to 27.7 during 2017. This, along with the immediacy of social media, has diminished recruitment standards as recruiters no longer work hard to attract suitable candidates.
Fact: Inequality is so severe in South Africa that our economy is described as ‘broken.’
What Legislation Guides Recruitment Policy?
THE CONSTITUTION FOR EVERYONE
Section 23.1 of the SA Constitution stipulates: “Everyone is entitled to fair labour practice.“
The process of being recruited is part of an employment experience. Applicants participate in a formal procedure that is the potential start of an employment relationship. It can’t be argued that an applicants right to a fair recruitment process is not protected by the Constitution.
Recruitment policy and process is guided by the Employment Equity Act which outlaws discrimination, but does not consider systemic discrimination against the poor and powerless.
In this, the EEA fails to regulate a vital market signal, a critical component of the recruitment process: the job advert.
Recruitment responds to a lack of regulations by breaking from conventions that foster inclusion and fair process.
Firms adopt neoliberal policy models where information can be withheld to create advantage. They create the perception that applicants must have adequate wealth and resources to relentlessly participate in recruitment processes that are fundamentally unfair and prejudiced.