Three Generations of Human Rights Explained
Click here for a definition of Human Rights, as well as a list of South African human rights and their implication in the workplace.
First Generation – Civil and Political Rights
There are three generations of human rights. The first generation is known as civil and political rights. These are rights that limit the power of the government, in order to give the individual more freedom. Examples include the right to life, the right to a fair trial, equality before the law, the right to vote, the right to participate in politics, freedom of expression and property rights.
Second Generation – Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Economic, social and cultural rights, also known as socio-economic rights, are second-generation human rights. They address matters related to living and working conditions. In South Africa, they include education, fair wages, access to basic health care, social security and cultural participation.
Third Generation – Solidarity Human Rights
The third generation is a broader group of rights, also known as solidarity human rights. They are not as clearly defined as the first two generations. They include the right to benefit from global trade, the right to breathe clean air and the right to live in a harmonious society.
There is now a fourth generation of rights that is emerging, which seems to deal with digital existence, such as the right to a digital identity and the right to participate digitally. This category is still very new and unclear.
Examples of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, per Category
Although human rights are placed into categories, in reality, they often overlap. This can be seen among the three sets of socio-economic rights, as economic, social and cultural rights are not so clearly separated in real life. For example, while access to education is a social issue, it is also an economic issue, since it influences a person’s ability to participate economically.
However, for examination purposes, it is important to know which rights belong where, according to common understanding. You need to know at least FIVE economic and FIVE social rights. There are not that many cultural rights, so it is fine to remember THREE.
Do not confuse the three groups. If the question asks for economic rights and you list social or cultural rights instead, you will lose those marks.
Economic Rights of Employees in the Workplace
Economic rights promote safety and fairness in the workplace. Below are some examples of South African economic rights that apply to employees:
- Freedom from slavery and forced labour.
- The freedom to choose or accept a job.
- The right to fair wages. (Equal pay for work of equal value)
- The right to reasonable working hours.
- The right to safe and healthy working conditions.
- The right to join or form a trade union. (Freedom of association)
- The right to participate in a legal strike.
- The right to the improvement of skills for career advancement.
Social Rights of Employees in the Workplace
Social rights have to do with the quality of living. Here is a list of South African social rights that apply to employees:
- The right to social security.
- The right to basic health care services.
- The right to sufficient food and water.
- The right to have access to adequate housing.
- The right to basic education, including adult basic education.
- The right to further education.
- No one may be refused emergency medical treatment.
- The right to be protected against epidemic diseases.
Cultural Rights of Employees in the Workplace
Cultural rights are related to language, culture, beliefs and religion. In South Africa, cultural rights that apply to employees in the workplace include:
- The right to enjoy your own culture.
- The right to practice your religion.
- The right to use your own language.
- The right to form or join religious and cultural groups.
- The right to participate in and benefit from scientific advancement.
- The freedom of artistic creativity.
Other Useful Articles
- Definition of Human Rights and their Implication in the Workplace
- How to Promote Social and Cultural Rights in the Workplace
- What Are the Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace?
- Contemporary Socio-Economic Issues in South Africa
- What is the Triple Bottom Line in CSR? 3Ps Simply Explained
Now it is time for you to test your knowledge. Download the quiz cards below and practice answering these NCS exam questions. Share them with your friends and test each other online. You will find more images like this on my Facebook page: Nonjabulo SA.
1. Outline any FIVE (5) economic rights of employees in the workplace.
2. List FOUR (4) social rights of employees.
3. List any THREE (3) cultural rights of employees in the workplace.
- Allversity. 2013. Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV-3tSRO-mM [2020/06/30]
- Bounds, M., 2018. Focus Business Studies Grade 12 Learner’s Book. 14th ed. Cape Town: Maskew Miller Longman.
- Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. 1996. Chapter 2: Bill of Rights. https://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/constitution/SAConstitution-web-eng-02.pdf [2020/06/19]
- Makhanya, M. 2019. Three generations of human rights: Balanced application will protect our poor and vulnerable. Daily Maverick. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2019-04-29-three-generations-of-human-rights-balanced-application-will-protect-our-poor-and-vulnerable/#gsc.tab=0 [2020/06/30]
- MOOC Chile. (2014). Introduction to Human Rights | Lesson 11: “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EUtPKF-J28 [2020/06/30]