2024-06-14

By Stevie M Kauka……

Once again, we find ourselves in time for reflecting on labor issues, and this year, I propose we dedicate this period to CELEBRATING labor as our treasured resource.
In many countries worldwide, May 1st is observed as a holiday known as Labor Day. This day serves as a tribute to labor and is a reminder of the significant role workers play in the economy. It’s an occasion to acknowledge the challenges faced by workers and to highlight their contributions to society.
On Labor Day, the labor movement, employers, and employees unite with a common purpose: to celebrate their contributions to economic growth. Additionally, Labor Day commemorates the historical struggle for the establishment of the 8-hour working day. New Zealand stands out as one of the pioneers in advocating for this right, with the first Labor Day celebration in New Zealand taking place on October 28, 1890. This milestone came after a lengthy battle for the recognition of the 8-hour workday, which began as early as the 1860s.
In the UK and some Commonwealth countries, Labor Day is also observed on May 1st, differing from the original date of October 28, 1890. In other nations, it is celebrated in September. Before delving further, let us define labor and appreciate why it is essential to commemorate this day.

Labor, as defined by the business dictionary, is the combined human, physical, and mental effort utilized in the creation of goods and services. This makes labor a fundamental component of production, alongside other factors like land. Put simply, labor encompasses any effort made to improve the well-being of humanity.
According to vocabulary.com, a treasured resource is typically associated with riches, like gold, jewels, or doubloons, traditionally found in treasure chests. However, treasures can also have sentimental value, such as a pet rock or a childhood blanket.

The word “treasure originates from the Old French “Tresor”, meaning something of great worth. Interestingly, the French term sounds more luxurious than its English counterpart, and it’s even used as the name for an expensive perfume. Worth, however, is subjective. Delving further back, the Latin word for treasury is “thesaurus,” which is also used to describe a book of synonyms. It is a reminder that ancient cultures recognized the richness and value of words.

However, for the purpose of this article, we define labor as our treasured resource as the recognition of human beings for the contributions they make, bringing satisfaction to employers and a sense of appreciation for their own efforts.

Despite the challenges faced by labor, it’s undeniable that labor is a vital resource for all factors of production. Captains of industry would agree that without labor, they would not be captains at all. However, whether this resource is truly treasured, positively or negatively, is a complex question.

Reading the McKinsey & Co. report on the “War for Talent” highlighted the ongoing struggle for organizations to manage talent effectively. This challenge stems from increased employer expectations, employee demands for work-life balance, changing demographics in the labor market, and persistent skills shortages.

Given this, this year’s Labour Day must recognize labor as a treasured resource. It is an undisputed fact that the resource should not be abused to get the most out of it. However there have been instances where the same has been abused and not treasured, examples abound like child labor, especially in tea and tobacco estates where this is rampant. Efforts have been put in place like child protection laws and also other NGOs have come out to protect this resource until it is ready to be used.

Lucky Mbewe, Executive Director, CYECE stated in 2017 that they had a project Arise 2 in which he stated they had successfully withdrawn 3,300 children from child labor, had rehabilitated and empowered them with vocational skills on the part of grown-up youth, and sent back to school those they can.

Reflecting on this, I recalled a seminar I attended where the importance of talent management was emphasized. The presenter drew a comparison between ancient and modern times, illustrating the significance of identifying and nurturing talent. He referenced a biblical verse, Luke 6:12-13, to emphasize the need for discernment and divine intervention in talent selection.

Talent management, in simple terms, involves identifying and developing specific skills lacking within an organization to fulfill its objectives. Every organization requires talent for various purposes, such as acquiring a football striker to score goals and win trophies. However, neglecting to value and nurture talent can lead to its deterioration, akin to neglecting a valuable egg.
Talent management is essential for organizational success. Like Jesus meticulously chose his disciples, organizations must identify and nurture the skills necessary to achieve their objectives. However, finding and retaining talented individuals is increasingly difficult due to factors such as an aging workforce and shifting demographics.
Companies must recognize and appreciate the hard work of their employees. Neglecting labor results in dissatisfaction and increased efficiency. Labor should be valued for its scarcity as a commodity.

Despite efforts to safeguard labor rights, challenges like child labor and inadequate working conditions persist. Organizations must ensure fair wages and provide a conducive work environment.

The Japanese have long recognized the importance of valuing labor for economic growth. Their approach to human resource development has contributed to their status as one of the most productive countries.

Companies need to appreciate and value their workers’ hard work. Neglecting labor leads to discontent and inefficiency. Labor should be treasured due to its scarcity as a commodity.

Despite efforts to protect labor rights, challenges like child labor and poor working conditions persist.

Organizations must ensure fair wages and a conducive work environment.
Back home the rising of redundancies, unemployment in sectors because of corporate closures, and poor business performance cannot be attributed to the resource alone, from a wider angle though the employers do not want to accept it comes from the employers themselves, (not valuing the treasure in form of a resource readily available) which in turn leads to the resource being unproductive, being absent, being present absent at work, being frustrated and not giving out the best.

Examples are plenty in Malawi of how companies in the same sector with the same variables are setting themselves apart and posting profits, respecting the treasure in hand which in turn gives out the best to enjoy the rewards.

Training the resources toward higher educational attainment if properly managed, and demand for managerial and specialized workers should continue to increase in the medium- to longer term. The improvement in educational standards of workers and the accumulation of human capital in companies in the course of their business will have an important bearing on economic performance in the next expansionary phase. The adjustment phases of valuing and treasuring the resource should be seen as an opportunity to correct mismatches.

Without respecting and recognizing the treasure companies/ entities let alone countries would not prosper.
If talent and labor are not treasured in any set up owners should expect industrial action, discontented treasure, and perpetual losses because the treasure is not giving its best due to the non-appreciation of resources.

*New American Standard Bible*

• 3“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of
the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.

• 4“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
The above verse could be equated to the genesis of division of labor and delegation of duties which most managers have a challenge with and hence fail to appreciate the treasure in this regard labor.

In conclusion, respecting and valuing labor is essential for organizational success. Failure to do so leads to inefficiency and discontent, organizations must recognize labor as a treasured resource and handle it with care to ensure continued success and growth.

Recognizing labor as a precious resource is key to prosperity and growth. Labour is a treasured resource indeed and should be nurtured.

_Stevie Kauka is a fellow of IPMM who writes on social as well as professional issues in his own capacity._

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