The world has, according to Toffler (1984), passed through three 'waves' of socio-economic development. These waves of development were brought about by changes in the technology related to economic activity. These technological developments also changed the social complexion of society. The first wave of change, was from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural society, while the second was from an agricultural to an industrialised society. The third wave of change is the focus of this study, which deals with the transformation from an industrial society to the so-called 'third wave' or information age and society. This transformation was brought about mainly by two factors, although there were many other influences that contributed to the change. The first factor was the technological development of electronic information and communication technologies that enabled the other influences to have such a telling effect on society. The second factor was the globalisation of the world economy, which occurred as a result of rapid technological developments, but also as a result of political changes such as the so called fall of the iron curtain after the dismantlement of the Soviet republics and subsequent economic freedom in the former Soviet Union. The Chinese economy followed the trend towards liberalisation and a more capitalistic orientation, signaled by events such as the return of Hong Kong to China from its British colonial occupancy. Globalisation and the development of information technologies has had far reaching consequences on the world economy and society and resulted in the formation of a 'new wave' economy where companies are becoming specialised, concentrating only on core business, to enable optimum penetration of the market in a specific area. As a result of specialisation, companies are contracting out non-core functions to independent contractors and as such, employing less permanent employees. Companies can thus employ specialists in non-core functions at competitive prices. This lead to the phenomena of 'job shift' from permanent employment to contract and temporary employment. Large segments of the world population are resisting globalisation and job shift, because of the subsequent losses in permanent employment and increased unemployment. Social protection for contract and temporary employees are not adequate compared to the protection for permanent employees. South Africa as a developing country, is not well positioned to absorb the effects of job shift. The standard of education in the country is low and a large portion of the population is engaged in elementary occupations. People engaged in certain technology companies such as Information Technology, are more suited to job shift compared to labour intensive companies such as the South African mining and construction industry. A survey was done to establish the preparedness of Middle Managers in a hard rock mining company and specifically whether there is a significant difference between the preparedness of employees engaged in mining related, finance, human resources, and engineering related occupations. Results indicated that all respondents were aware of the phenomenon of job shift and it was understood that the trend would increase. No significant difference was found between the preparedness of the various occupational categories. It was anticipated that employees engaged in the core business of the Company, namely mining, would chose to remain in permanent employment in the mining industry, but it was found that more than 50% of all respondents proposed to apply for another permanent position in the hard rock mining industry should their jobs became redundant. More than 70% proposed to remain in the same industry. This indicated that respondents were not prepared for job shift. Although the phenomenon of job shift was known to and understood by respondents, it was perceived not to be a real threat or opportunity. In order to have a workforce more prepared to job shift, the researcher proposes that companies need to familiarise their employees with the skills and attributes of an entrepreneur. This will benefit the Company in moving towards a 'third wave' organisation and will also lessen the negative effects of future job losses.
Dissertation (MCom (Labour Relations Management))--University of Pretoria, 2005.