EE Amendment law needed to speed up transformation - Thulas Nxesi

Minister says private business taking too long to weed out whites from leading positions

Minister Thulas Nxesi calls on Parliament to expedite EE amendments as report shows little progress in transformation

25 June 2021

It will take at least 50 years to see real transformation in the workplaces if the current pace of employment equity implementation in the top echelons is allowed to persist, according to the Commission for Employment Equity (CEE).

Speaking at the launch of the Commission for Employment Equity, Employment and Labour Minister, Thulas Nxesi said this situation was not acceptable and that South Africa’s workplace still remains unequal especially, in the upper echelons. 

“The Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) report calls for urgent strategies. It cannot be business as usual. The time has come to re-strategise. Employment equity legislation to date has failed to achieve its intended purpose and objective.

“The CEE report is a wake-up call to government that self-regulation by employers to achieve the objectives of EE legislation has not worked. We now need a more aggressive strategy including a review of legislation. The EE Bill currently in Parliament is a catalyst to expedite transformation in the workplace. We have heard the cries of the vulnerable groups – women and the people living with disability,” he said.

With little or largely insignificant progress at top level, Minister Nxesi wondered whether government was doing enough or is there a resistance by employers. He appealed to Parliament to expedite the process of EE Act amendments so as to fast-track the building of an inclusive South Africa.

The report and the Public Register of all designated employers on the status of workplace transformation was launched under the theme: “Transformation makes business sense”.

Commission for Employment Equity Chairperson Tabea Kabinde said plans at ensuring equitable demographic representation continues at snail pace. Kabinde said the White population groups continue to dominate the workplace top echelons, despite their minority representation in terms of the Economically Active Population (EAP).

In terms of the National Economically Active by Population Group and Gender the report shows that males accounted for 55,4 percent – with African male accounting for 43,7 percent, Coloured male 4,8 percent, Indian male 1,8 percent and White male 5,1 percent. While women accounted for 44,6 percent of EAP – with African female accounting for 35,6 percent, Coloured female 4,1 percent, Indian female 1,0 percent and White female 3,9 percent.

Kabinde presented the CEE report that covers the period from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. The report analysis covered the six occupational levels of the workforce profile and movements according to population groups, gender and disability for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020. In addition, it provided the status of employment equity in the various economic sectors and business types reported in 2020. Furthermore, an analysis is provided of the workplace barriers and affirmative action measures reported by designated employers for the 2020 reporting period. 

The CEE launches the report on the back of EE Amendment Bill currently underway in Parliament.

The primary objectives of amendments are: to provide the Minister with the power, in consultation with the sector stakeholders and on the advice of the Commission for Employment Equity, to:

  • Regulate employment equity sector through specific EE numerical targets for designated groups (i.e., Black people, women and persons with disabilities)
  • Reduce the regulatory burden on small employers, i.e., those employing between 0-49 employees.
  • Regulate criteria for assessment of compliance to complement the promulgation of Section 53 of the EE Act in order to be able to issue Employment Equity Certificate of Compliance as a precondition for designated employers to access State Contracts and do business with any organ of the state or public entity.   

According to Kabinde, at Top Management Level, the White population group representation is (64,7%). Although slowly declining, it continues to dominate at this occupational level – with African group accounting for 15,8%, Indian group 10,6% and Coloured group 5,7%. She said the Commission had observed a one percent drop annually in the representation of White group.

She said proportionally in terms of the respective EAP’s, Indians benefitted the most from this decline taking their representation even further above their EAP. Female representation has remained below 25% throughout all the reporting periods, with White and Indian female representation remaining much higher than their EAP at the Top Management Level. 

The Commission has observed the high representation of Foreign Nationals, particularly in the Private Sector at Top Management level. It said it was evident that the expected skills transfer by Foreign Nationals to the South African designated groups was not taking place.

The White group also dominate at Senior Level with a representation of 54,5%, African group at 24,7%, Coloured group 8,7% and Indian group 11,6%. At Senior Management Level there was an increasing trend of African and Indian population groups with the White group gradually decreasing. A significant proportion of Senior Management positions are also held by Foreign Nationals at the Senior Management level.

Kabinde said it was at Professional level that there was a critical mass of Africans, however, they are still unable to break through the glass ceiling. At this level Africans account for 46,7% representation, while the While group has a 32,1% representation, with Coloured group having a 9,7% and Indian group a 9,1% representation.

The skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled levels are exclusively dominated by the “army” of African group. The CEE said in its report it was concerned about the trend of employing a large number of Foreign Nationals, even at the lower occupational levels, which may be contrary to employment legislation seeking to govern migrant labour and employment regulations, such as skills transfer programmes.

The report says in terms of the trend analysis of the representation of persons with disabilities across all occupational levels over the three years a relatively slow pace towards creating workplaces that are inclusive of persons with disabilities. The analysis over the three years shows that the representation of persons with disabilities in the total workforce reported on has insignificantly increased from 1% in 2018 to 1,3% in 2020. Kabinde said this was disturbing.

The COVID-19 effect on the economy also affected equity which was reflected in the 1,8 percent drop in the number of reports received and a 3,8 percent drop in the number of employees covered.

In 2020 a total of 26 635 reports were submitted by designated employers.

Issued by Department of Employment and Labour, 25 June 2021