Exploring social justice in labour law, and how can it be measured

Social justice in labour law is not abstract and intangible, but measurable. Setting out to prove this, labour relations researcher Prof Paul Smit is investigating whether it is possible to develop a social justice scorecard, similar to an employment equity or broad-based black economic empowerment scorecard.

“What is social justice and how can it be measured in labour law?” is the question at the centre of the latest research project of Prof Smit, an associate professor and programme leader for Labour Relations Management at the North-West University’s (NWU’s) Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.

“I have always maintained that labour rights are also human rights, and with the world of work rapidly changing as a result of international trade and globalisation, labour law has taken on a transnational character,” says Prof Smit, who believes social justice lies at the heart of society.

He defines social justice as "the equitable distribution of resources, opportunities and privileges in society".

Measuring social justice in labour law

Prof Smit’s research into the development of a social justice scorecard involves collecting data through surveys and consultations with stakeholders, as well as analysing legal cases for insights into the effectiveness and impact of labour laws on social justice.

Various indicators and metrics can be considered in measuring social justice in labour law, including wage and salary equality, workplace discrimination, employment rights and protections, collective bargaining, employee satisfaction and well-being, income inequality, access to training and promotion opportunities, social dialogue, job security and precarity, as well as anti-discrimination and diversity policies.

Prof Smit has been invited to collaborate as a visiting fellow at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, whose Centre for Business Research (CBR) has developed a Labour Regulation Index (LRI) data set for 117 countries. This index uses 10 indicators to evaluate countries, fair wages, decent working hours, employment security, family responsibilities, maternity at work, safe work, social security, fair treatment, child and forced labour, and trade unions.

“I look forward to investigating how the LRI can be used for labour law research, especially in comparative labour law research,” Prof Smit says. He and the director of the CBR, Prof Simon Deakin, also plan to investigate whether the social justice scorecard can be used in conjunction with the LRI.

“The aim would thus be not to only determine the levels of labour regulation in a country, but also to determine to what extent the labour laws of a country contribute towards and promote the achievement of social justice.”

For more information, contact Prof Paul Smit via email at: Paul.Smit@nwu.ac.za.

Prof Paul Smit

Submitted on Wed, 09/27/2023 - 15:11