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Posted: September 14, 2017

Benefits that matter
Alexander Forbes thought leadership publication on the changing world of work

As a world-class financial services company committed to providing customers with peace of mind by securing their financial well-being for a lifetime, Alexander Forbes specialises in employee benefits and investments, as well as short-term and long-term insurance, providing financial advice, risk management and administration solutions to companies, individuals, the government, parastatals and union bodies.

The world is changing. So are places of work and the roles of, and relationships between, employees and employers. In Benefits Barometer 2017, Alexander Forbes touches on a range of socio-demographic and economic factors that will affect the world of work in South Africa in the context of a changing global environment.

With unprecedented change and transformation in the world of employee benefits, it is vital that employers and other stakeholders (employees, policymakers, communities and households) develop a meaningful framework for the delivery of benefits that cater to an individual’s needs throughout their lifetime.

Benefits Barometer provides a holistic framework to grapple with the complex issues around savings and investment, social protections, social mobility, financial stability and effective employer–employee relations. To gain insights into whether the retirement fund system is effective, we need to examine the full financial journey an individual has to negotiate on the way to retirement – and this is a lifetime journey. To tackle the issue of the country’s public–private partnership to provide individuals with social protections around income, we also need to address the issue of social mobility, knowing that asset acquisition plays an equally important role in the lives of individuals.

The publication seeks to be the sum of many smaller debates, which makes it highly relevant and accessible to those readers who want to concentrate on specific aspects of these debates.

What you can look forward to in this year’s edition

The theme for the 2017 Benefits Barometer is ‘benefits that matter in the changing world of work’. As part of a highly connected global community we are affected by the rapid technological changes being brought about by what is now referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This supercharged fusion of digital, biological and physical technologies is fundamentally changing how we work, where we work and what work we do. On a more profound note, it is also challenging the economic and organisational precepts that underpin our work.

According to the World Economic Forum, South Africa is in the unenviable position of being highly exposed to this global phenomenon while having the lowest potential to cope with it. This is because of the poor quality of the country’s educational system and its high levels of unemployment.

If there has been one key learning that has come out of the Benefits Barometer series it is that systems fail when they fail to address the interests of the individual they are meant to serve. This edition re-emphasises this warning and stresses the importance of creating better outcomes for individual workers who must deliver in this changing world.

If we are going to best serve the interests of employees in the future,we have to go significantly beyond a discussion of benefit structures and into the heart of what constitutes a viable financial and social contract between employer and employee. By doing so, all parties will be better positioned to tackle the challenges of an exponentially changing work world.

We need to recognise that there are socio-demographic changes taking place in South Africa that will place additional burdens on both the workplace and our society at large. This means that employment debates need to consider that the issues of youth unemployment may be inextricably linked with how we deal with an ageing, experienced workforce.

All these efforts will be necessary if we want to harness the commitment and engagement of a workforce that will need less and less from employers than employers will need from them.

Employers and their workplaces, as we currently understand them, may not play such a dominant role in our day-to-day lives. Retirement as a convention could cease to exist. There’s no doubt that the skills we will need to meet the challenges of the future will be different from the ones we have required in the past.

What Alexander Forbes believes won’t change, though, is the need for individuals to have adequate safety nets when facing whatever challenges this new world of work might hold, and support in meeting their aspirational goals.