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Transformation achieved? A look at all that has changed in the workplace in 28 years

A lot has changed since 1994. Picture: Pixabay

A lot has changed since 1994. Picture: Pixabay

Published May 4, 2022


When the first democratic elections took place in South Africa in 1994, a lot of promises were made about how the country would transform and become one of equality and equity brimming with opportunities for all of its people.

In nearly 30 years, how have these promises stacked up, especially in the workplace?

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Here is a look at what has changed in the workplace since 1994:

The government amended labour laws to provide protection to domestic workers for the first time in 1994.

Domestic workers include cleaners, gardeners, drivers and people who look after children, the elderly, sick, frail or disabled in a private household.

The Labour Relations Act

On November 11, 1996, the Labour Relations Act came into effect. It sought to recognise and regulate workers’ rights to join trade unions and to strike.

The Employment Equity Act of 1998

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This legislation came into effect on August 9, 1999. It prohibited discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy and marital status, among other factors.

However, under this act, affirmative action was allowed.

The National Economic, Development and Labour Council Act

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Nedlac was launched in February 1995. It consists of representatives from the government, organised labour, organised business and community organisations.

They aim to co-operate on economic, labour and development issues, and related challenges facing the country.

Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) programme

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This programme was created to provide a legislative framework for the transformation of South Africa's economy.

It aimed to advance economic transformation and enhance the economic participation of black people in the South African economy.

Here are its objectives:

– To empower more black people to own and manage enterprises and businesses. Companies are regarded as black-owned if 51% of the enterprise is owned by black people.

– To achieve a significant change in the racial composition of ownership and management structures of existing and new enterprises/companies.

– To promote economic empowerment that will result in access to prosperous finances for black people.

There is still much work to be done.

Gender pay gap

According to Labour Market Dynamics of South Africa (LMDSA) data from 2018, earnings distributed across race and gender showed that women across all racial groups still earn less than their male counterparts.

The data revealed that black women overall earn 14% less than men among the four prominent racial groups in South Africa, with black women earning the least, followed by Indians, then coloureds and whites.

In the second quarter of 2021, Statistics SA revealed that the unemployment rate among black African women was 41% compared with 8.2% among white women, with 22.4% among Indian/Asian women and 29.9% among coloured women.

Salary disparities among races

According to data from Stats SA that tracked wages between racial groups between 2011 and 2015, on average, white people earned more than three times more than black people.