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SAFTU deplores slow pace of transformation in employment equity

epa04757859 An unemployed builder from Zimbabwe holds a spirit level used in brick laying as he waits on a roadside for work in Cape Town, South Africa, 20 May 2015. Statistics South Africa reports the unemployment rate is around 24 per cent of the labour force in the country. Migrants from African countries join thousands of South Africans who on a daily basis look for part time labour. Some workers report waiting for over three months for even one days work. Unemployment in South Africa is one of the major issues facing government and is an underlying issue fueling xenephobic tensions. EPA/NIC BOTHMA EPA/NIC BOTHMA

The latest report of the Commission for Employment Equity confirms that South Africa’s workplaces are still nowhere near reflecting the country’s demographics. Nearly a quarter of a century into democracy, the racial inequalities in employment  which we inherited from apartheid have been changing at a snail’s pace.

Introducing the report Commission Chairperson Tabea Kabinde says: ”Twenty years on [since the act was promulgated] we are still nowhere near celebrating effective implementation of transformation legislation. We cannot even begin to contemplate the implementation of a ‘sunset’ clause on this legislation”.

The demographic statistics in the 2011 census figures showed that the population of South Africa consists of Africans 76.4%, Whites 9.1%, Coloureds 8.9%, Asian 2.5%, and Other/Unspecified 0.5%.

Yet the CEE statistics show that in all but two categories is the black proportion higher then their percentage in the population and they are the two lowest in terms pay and skills. In every other category of better paid jobs black workers fall well below the level they should now be be getting based on their percentage of the population. The key findings are that:

  • Whites still occupy 67% of top management positions, black Africans14.3%, coloureds 5.1% and Indians 9.4%.
  • At senior management level, the situation is “appalling” says the Commission, with whites at 56.1%, black Africans 22.1%, coloureds 7.7% and Indians 10.9%.
  • Among the ‘professionally qualified’, whites occupied 42.2% of the positions, black Africans 36.5%, coloureds 9.6% and Indians 8.8% .
  • Whites occupy 19.6% of technically skilled jobs, Africans 61.7%, coloureds 11.3%; Indians 5.6%.
  • 5.9% of semiskilled employees are white, 76.8% black Africans, 12.1% coloureds and 2.9% Indians.
  • Among the unskilled workers, the figures are: whites 1.1%, black Africans 83.5%, coloureds 11.1% and Indians 0.8%.


The economy which was built on the backs of  super-exploited black African workers still remains intact, with only minor improvements. Economic apartheid lives on, in a society in which 83.5% of unskilled, low-paid workers are still black Africans compared to 1.1% who are white.

But these statistics hide big disparities between the public and private sectors. While 72.23% of top managers in the government are black, 71% of those in the private sector are white. Similarly 69% of senior managers in government are black, 61.7% of them in the private sector are white. Among the professionally qualified the figures are 71.1% and 47.7%, respectively.

Kabinde noted that since 2001 the biggest shift from whites to blacks, in particular Indians, had been at top and senior management levels, where whites at top-management level decreased 20% and at senior management level 24.9%. But as she says, “This represents around a 1% increase of the black population year on year and is considered a very slow rate of transformation”.

She was no less impressed of progress for women workers: “The picture in terms of gender remains particularly discouraging. The highest increase in representation of women is noted at senior management level which is [an] 18.8% increase. This bleak picture is after 20 years and is far from desirable”.

The figures in the report also reflect the equally slow transformation of the two-tier education system, which still puts black learners from under-funded, under-resourced and under-staffed schools at a huge disadvantage in the jobs market.

Employers then use the lack of job-seekers’ qualifications as a convenient excuse for not employing more black workers, yet at the same time they demand government cuts in spending, which makes the problems in schools and colleges even worse.

The effect of the Skills Development Act to redress inequality in the workplace appeared to have been minimal. Year after year the statistics demonstrated that white males were favoured in terms of training and development which indicated that there was no real political will to transform.

Yet Business Unity SA (Busa) have criticised the Department of Labour’s “punitive” regime of fines and punishment, saying it was not an effective mechanism to ensure buy-in from key role-players. The evidence in this report proves the very opposite – that fines are so low that they are no deterrent to employers who fail to transform their workforce.

The report, particularly its figures on the big difference between the public and private sectors, shows that transformation is entirely possible, but that the majority of private companies have no ‘real political will’ to achieve similar results as have been achieved in the public service. They do not care about social transformation but purely about making profits.

Education, skills training and employment equity will be discussed at the Working Class Summit (WCS) to be held on 21- 22 July 2018 at the University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus.

It aims to unite civil society formations, employed and unemployed workers, those in the informal sector and in more secure work, the students and the landless, the homeless and those fighting against the scourge of violence against women and children, into a struggle for a truly free, corruption-free, democratic and equal society.

We call on all those interested in participating in the WCS to contact us.

Tel: +27 (11) 331 0124
Fax: +27 (11) 331 0176
Email: info@saftu.org.za
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