The Employment Equity Paradox

NOT much has changed in Employment Equity in South Africa over the last two years.

19 April 2013 | Kentse Radebe


When looking at top line demographics, the private sector is still dominated by white males when it comes to senior and executive level management. 

Skilled and educated Africans, Indians and coloureds are catching up, albeit at a much slower pace. In some instances, however, there is a backward trend materialising. 

White males have made up over 73% of top management over the last ten years, even though they only make up 11.3% of the Economically Active Population (EAP). 

These results stem from the Labour Department’s 2012/2013 Employment Equity Report, released yesterday. It examined the demographics of SA’s top and senior managers, dived by professional (graduate) and skilled individuals. 

A key indicator of management transformation is the statistics for promotion and recruitment as this shows the progression of previously disadvantaged individuals through the ranks, especially in the private sector. 

According to Dr Loyiso Mbabane, chairpman of the Commission of Employment Equity, it is worrying that white males are more likely to be recruited, promoted and exposed to training and development. 

White males made up 72.6% of top level management in 2012 and accounted for 58.4% of all recruitments and 59% of all promotions in this segment.  At the senior management level, white females made up 18.6% of the sample and accounted for 17.1% of recruitments and 17.7% of promotions.

One of the reasons for the high recruitment and promotion statistics is the fact that white men and women are much more exposed to skills development than other racial groups. Over a ten-year period Indians showed the most stability regarding promotion and recruitment statistics overall in the private sector, government and parastatals.

In the private sector, African males make up 6.3% of top management, and African females make up 2.3%. Males were over represented, accounting for nearly five times their EAP. Females account for 30.7% of top management 30.7% of top management. 

It is only in government and at parastatals where previously disadvantaged people (African, Indian and coloured) are more represented than whites. In government, white males make up 11.5% of top management and white females 2.9%. 

However, professionally qualified black males and females scored better on their exposure to promotion and development than other race groups. Overall 24% of black professional males promoted as opposed to 20.9% of white males. 

Mbabane said that since 2002, the employment equity statistics are comparable to drunk walking from a bar, swaying this way and that. This is because the statistics have varied from year to year. For example, Africans in top management positions declined from 13.6% in 2008 to 12.7% in 2010.  In 2012 it was down to 12.3%. In 2010, coloureds made up 4.6% of top management and are still at that level. 

The challenge, Mbabane said, lies in  how the employment equity is approached, the decisions taken by the people in leadership positions and the choices made by individuals recruiting employees. 

The report notes that the current employment equity legislation has presented poor results and highlights that amendments to the Employment Equity Bill will hopefully produce better results.