Labour minister warns on jobs

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant File picture: Leon Nicholas

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant File picture: Leon Nicholas

Published Apr 26, 2016


Cape Town - “South Africa’s pace of transformation in the labour market is moving on a stubborn path, especially at the upper levels of management, where the white group has a tight grip.”

These were the words of Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant as she released the 16th annual Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) report yesterday. What the report shows is in two decades South Africa has had made little progress in changing the complexion of top management.

Read: Pale males still holding top spots

Representation of whites at top management was 68.9%, more than six times their representation in the economically active population. This was also the case for Indians, who at 8.6% of top management made up more than three times the size of the group’s economically active population.

White women were also favourably represented at the top in all provinces compared to other race groups, with the Western Cape at 14% having the highest representation, followed by Limpopo at 13.6%.

“White people continue to receive preference over other race groups. Even when their contract of employment is terminated in one organisation, they are recruited back again at the same top management level in another organisation during the same period, which is an indication of opportunities afforded specifically to them at the expense of other race groups,” Oliphant said.

Last week a Statistics SA survey into youth found the number of blacks, as a proportion of the population, completing bachelor’s degrees was at its highest point in 1990 and had decreased significantly since. This while Indians and whites had dramatically increased their proportion of youth with bachelor degrees in the late 1990s.

The CEE report, citing Stats SA figures, showed Africans account for 77.4% of the economically active population, coloureds 10%, Indians 2.7% and whites 9.9%.

The employment equity report also showed that the representation of people with disabilities in the workplace had decreased from 2% in 2014 to 1.7%, with men more likely to find employment.

Black Management Forum president Mncani Mthunzi said South Africa was regressive.

“We are stagnant, particularly when it comes to top or executive leadership positions. There are a number of gatekeepers within corporate SA that are not aligned to the national project of a non-racial, non-sexist democratic country. They don’t understand the rationale and the bigger picture of what we need to do to achieve peace and harmony on a sustainable basis,” said Mthunzi.

The BMF would motivate for an “employment equity tribunal” similar to the Competition Tribunal, he said.

“This employment equity tribunal must be given powers and authority to dish out fines and penalties to companies that are not complying with the Employment Equity Act,” said Mthunzi.

The BMF said industry charter councils had to take responsibility for the lack of progress in implementing employment equity.

“The charter councils are saying nothing about it (employment equity). It’s about time that they must publicly pronounce or we must get rid of all these industry charter councils,” said Mthunzi.

He said the figures should also be a wake-up call to the ANC, whose policymakers were ineffective in driving change.

“It’s about time that they come in and give some strategic intervention,” said Mthunzi.

Oliphant, however, threatened yesterday that her department would give employers at least six months to “rectify the situation before the might of the law takes its course”.

The DA’s spokesperson on labour, Ian Ollis, said the government could drive transformation and employment equity by encouraging small businesses instead of solely focusing on corporates to drive change at the top.

He said in the DA-controlled City of Cape Town and Western Cape, government contracts had been broken down into smaller parts, allowing black-owned companies to tender for contracts without the need for the requisite liquidity.

“As a result of that we’ve seen employment equity figures, in terms of businesses growing, increasing,” said Ollis.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the labour federation was not shocked at the CEE’s latest statistics.

“Of late, what we’ve seen is that in industries where there are retrenchments, unions like Solidarity have been ensuring that as and when those retrenchments take place that the issue of employment equity (affirmative action) is not really considered,” said Pamla.

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