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White domination: Transformation in the workplace is slow

Tougher regulations and fines of up to 10% of turnover for non-compliant companies in the offing.

Transformation is slow and the era of self-regulation in terms of changing the face of senior and executive positions in corporate South Africa has come to an end. 

The Commission of Employment Equity released its annual report on Tuesday. It shows that despite accounting for just 9% of the economically active population, white people are “overrepresented” in key positions in the workplace.

White people make up 65.5% of top management positions and 54.4% of senior management positions. This while Africans, who account for 78.8% of the economically active population, only accounted for 15.1% and 23.2% of top and senior positions respectively.

The report, which tracked transformation over the past three years, shows that the increase in representation among the African and coloured populations was “marginal”, increasing by around and below 1% respectively.

Two decades of little transformation

Minister of Labour and Employment Thulas Nxesi said the report reflected that there has been little transformation in the workplace since the Employment Equity Act was passed over 20 years ago. 

The objective of the act is to eliminate unfair discrimination in the workplace based on race, gender and disability to create a labour environment where people have equal opportunities.

“This means our country is not moving with transformation … This unhealthy situation flies in the face of an inclusive economy [which is] one of the priorities of the government ,” he said.

Top management representation over the past three years

Source: Commission for Employment Equity Annual Report 2018/19

Nxesi said the lack of transformation and employment equity is something the government needs to tackle “head-on”.

The commission has put forward recommendations that it believes will assist in speeding up transformation. 

“We recognise as the commission that since the inception of the [act] the law has always said that employers should set their own targets but we see that this does not bear fruit,” said commission chair Tabea Kabinde.

More stringent requirements 

Kabinde said there is a need for more growth for the designated groups in the middle to upper levels of the workforce.

As an alternative to self-regulation, the department will implement sector targets that companies will have to meet. These targets will be established in consultation with the various sectors, a process the commission said is already underway. 

In addition, Kabinde said Section 53 of the act, which deals with issuing employment equity compliance certificates to employers who fulfil a number of employment equity conditions, will be promulgated. 

For instance, in the agricultural sector, white people make up 85.3% of top management and 62.4% of senior management. Mining and quarrying, retail and motor trade repair services, wholesale trade sector as well as manufacturing are other sectors that had between 60% and 70% white representation. 

“It’s clear that we have to increase the risk of non-compliance so people know that there are consequences,” said Nxesi. 

Companies who do not have a compliance certificate will not be able to do business with the government.

In addition, the certificate is also expected to make it easier for inspectors to enforce the equity regulations, where even when a company does not do business with government and is not in possession of the certificate it can be prosecuted if it cannot provide reasonable justifications for non-compliance. 

Companies could be fined between 2% and 10% of their annual turnover. The department will also increase the number of inspectors where currently there is one inspector for every 20 000 workplaces. 

“I believe that socially responsible corporates will welcome this,” said Nxesi. “When certain groups are underrepresented in the economy it also means that the talent and skills are underutilised.”

Workplace movement 

A look at the number of professionally qualified and technically skilled workers reveals that Africans are leading with 40.2% and 63.3% representation in each category. Women and Africans are the main beneficiaries of training and promotions at this level. 

Black Management Forum president Andile Nomlala said the report was “disappointing and unacceptable” and wanted to understand why, given the significant improvement in transformation in the lower levels of management, these people were not progressing to senior and executive levels. 

The act does not allow companies to dismiss employees in order to make room for people from designated groups. Instead it relies on natural attrition to create opportunities for equitable recruitment. 

Kabinde said an analysis of workforce movement looking at recruitment and promotions at those occupational levels found that preference was still given to white candidates and that enforcing the certificate will change this pattern.

She added: “We do not for a minute believe that persons from designated groups are not skilled and cannot take over those roles.”

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Comments on this article are closed.

Fines will simply put mediocrity in place and result in window dressing and ultimate business failure. The real problem is that the pool of black talent is very small due to the ANCs failure to provide decent education. The lack of transformation is entirely the fault of the ANC-after 25 years of power their are no more excuses. When the ANC seized power in 1994 they fired teachers by the drove, frightened talented potential teachers away with radical policies and now pay the price.

Also an environment of entrepreneurship is lacking-there is no black Hyundai, Samsung etc. In South Korea there is-with a smaller population-but look at their Maths and Science results. As a nation we need to accept that the system of education is hopeless-no delivery-to be close to last in Maths and Science verifies my view of gross incompetence by the ANC kleptocracy.

Transformation should be a progressive by its nature, the role model of this should be Goverment and investment should follow.
Should should should…

No right person who has capital and or entrepreneurial skills will invest in a country where the regulations “cost of business” exceed the reward “potential profit”.

Pushing the punishment to a higher level will only see more capital and skills flight.
As we see every week the number of people seeking to Leave SA is growing rapidly, surprising the majority are African.

Government cannot govern, the corruption, lawlessness and thuggery shows the real political willingness.

Even this new plan to create 1million jobs over 10 years to get GDP up to 2.3% whilst the number of new job seekers grown in excess of 300,000 people a year.

Sadly my Africa has become what Donald Trump said it was…

Interesting article but ignores a number of real world issues.
1. SA’s education system is broken so the number of highly qualified black people remains a small pool that is only very slowly growing through middle management. Personal experience.
2. Top qualified black people want between 50% and 75% more than the equivalent white person to do the same job due to demand for them. Personal experience.
3. Many industries are becoming globalised so companies will hire the top skills on merit alone to compete in those markets regardless of colour. Personal experience.
4. Top white skills particularly in the 25-45 age group range are flying out of the country as an unintended consequence as the global market hires on merit alone and ignores colour. Loss of tax base, loss of experience and ability to train aspiring senior (black) managers. Personal experience.
5. Government has largely destroyed entrepreneurship opportunities for the best and brightest of any colour in favor of political affiliation and tenderpreneurs so we will see very few meaningful and effective black business being built from scratch. Personal experience.
6. BBBEE is effectively just a moving target that currently adds around 10%-15% to tax making SA businesses globally noncompetitive.

Harsh I know but I am without doubt jaundiced by government policy, education system failures that should have allowed this country to flourish and the theft of my tax money that should have enabled thousands more black senior managers to emerge.
But that’s all good, carry on blaming the whites for all the issues and keep regulating businesses more harshly…read Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged for an example of the effectiveness of that.

Tebogo, can we start getting the terminology right please. All people born in America are referred to as Americans. All those born in Australia are Australians. All those born in Canada are Canadians. All those born in Africa are Africans. Etc, etc.
Where you use the term “African” in this article you actually mean “black”. Please correct your future use of these terms, even where state employees like the minister and others get it wrong.
You might even use appropriate opportunities to correct them too, whenever possible.

Look at this goon, for instance, and ask yourself: Should I employ this guy at management level, or to wash my car?

Changing laws doesn’t change facts.

By careful selection of samples and readings one can prove anything one wants too with statistics and the bible. Every year the same issue is raised but it contradicts what people see in business. So I think the the transformation figures presented by the government are not valid.

Are we really on about this AGAIN?

If we had really strong successful working models then sure start to tinker and appoint people who are Qualified to the vacant posts.

But as the opening comment mentioned, look at the resounding success of the African run models to date…………..I also rest my case.

All these laws to protect the population against 5%, really?

Realize you can’t put the average graduate into a management position immediately. It take years and more years before you are able to be in the top rank of management, and not everybody has the skill to become a top manager.

What is suggested will only lead to an increase in unemployment. Be careful, very careful.

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