Blacks still bottom

After hundreds of billions of rands have been invested in implementing Black Economic Empowerment, procurement targets and broad-based BEE scorecards, the percentage of blacks in top management has remained almost unchanged since 2006 at just 16.9%.

A Commission for Employment Equity report released on Wednesday in Pretoria showed the slow pace of the country’s progress on employment equity at senior levels. More than 18?534 reports were received and 16?698 were analysed, covering more than 5.2-million employees and 11 sectors of the economy.

But the report also showed a dramatic improvement in the numbers of professionally qualified blacks since 2006—up 50%. The report said the representation of coloureds, women and people with disabilities still lags behind at most levels when measured against the economically active population (EAP).

Black people account for approximately 86% of employees covered in the latest reports analysed but account for only 16.9% at top management and 35.9% at the senior management level. The report covered the period from April 1 2010 to March 31 2011 and showed the status of employment equity in relation to workforce profile, movements and skills development and in terms of race, gender and disability.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, speaking at the release of the report, said the low number of blacks in top and senior management was disturbing. She said tougher action was necessary to strike a more equitable balance. This would include harsher penalties for non-compliance and for employment equity and skills development to be mandatory requirements for BBBEE.

According to the report whites still dominate, with 73.1% at the top management and senior management level, which is nearly six times their EAP. Male representation is almost double that of their EAP and nearly four times that of women at this level. The representation of people with disabilities at this level is 1.4%.

The report also showed that white women are more likely to be employed at these levels than any other designated group. Research by Business Unity South Africa (Busa) shows that more than 90% of the chief executive positions at JSE listed companies are still dominated by white males, with a number of them nearing retirement.

Oliphant said: “The data presented today paints a bleak picture for Africans, coloureds, in particular African women and people with disabilities, whose representation stands at 0.8%. Clearly, this indicates pure resistance by the captains of industries in embracing change to create conducive working environments that are accommodative to all people irrespective of race, gender or disability.”

The report said that in terms of EAP blacks account for more than 77%, coloureds 11%, Indians more than 3% and whites more than 12%. Although employers have failed to achieve equitable representation of employees from designated groups with affirmative action, the report indicated that there has been progress for both black ­people and women at the professionally qualified and skilled levels. Of the designated groups, white women and Indians have bene­fited most from affirmative action measures.

The minister said the report negated the perception that affirmative action was discriminatory. In fact, the data confirmed that where decision-makers were committed to the implementation of affirmative action, it was an effective tool to address the imbalances and inequalities of the past.

Among the sectors covered by the report are the retail and motor trade/repair service; community, social and personal services; electricity, gas and water; mining and quarrying; manufacturing; and wholesale trade, commercial agents and allied services. The community, social and personal services sector appears to be performing well at nearly all levels, which is attributed to the number of state employers and employees included in it.

The worst-performing sector at most levels in terms of race and gender is the manufacturing sector. The report showed that the representation of people with disabilities has not improved much. They accounted for just 0.83% percent of the total number of employees, up fractionally from 0.7% in 2006. Their representation is also more likely to be concentrated at the lower ­occupational levels.

The report called for rapid intervention to empower women, people with disabilities and other designated groups and said the Act should be reviewed and amended to tighten some provisions of the Act to prevent employers from circumventing its purpose.

Solidarity: Report is flawed
Trade union Solidarity has described the latest report of the department of labour’s Commission for Employment Equity and the minister of labour’s statement on the report as unreliable. It was responding to the announcement that only 16.9% of employees at top management levels and 35.9% of senior management are black. These figures differ from those provided in the report, says Solidarity: black employees have 24% representation in top management positions and 33.6% -representation in senior management positions.

Solidarity has also called into question the reliability of the report’s findings because the progress of affirmative action is once again, understated. Even though the representation of white males dropped by more than 16 percentage points at the top level and 19 at senior level over the past 10 years, the pace of transformation is still criticised. Top management also represents only 0.8% of all employees covered in the survey.

According to Dirk Hermann, deputy general secretary of Solidarity, the Employment Equity Act is clear about what measure has to be used. “The Act says compliance with employment equity legislation should be determined by considering the composition of the economically active population (EAP) and the pool of suitably trained persons, the impact of current and possible future economic and financial factors, as well as the number of current and expected vacant positions. Declaring that employment equity is still inadequately enforced based on the EAP alone is misleading,” said Hermann.

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