Zuma defends Equity Act changes

President says amendments will not have negative effect on coloureds or Indians


President Jacob Zuma has assured members of the Indian and Coloured communities that government will not enact or implement any legislation that is in conflict with the Constitution of the Republic and the non-racial ethos and foundations of South Africa.

The President met with the Minister of Labour, Ms Mildred Oliphant, this morning to discuss proposed changes to the Employment Equity Act legislation, in particular the concerns raised by members of the Coloured community.

The Minister assured the President that the legislation is intended to improve the employment prospects of the designated groups and not to make it difficult for them to obtain employment or to advance in their careers.

The changes in the Employment Equity Act that are of concern relate to Section 42(a) (i) which states that in determining whether an employer is complying with this Act, the following factors must be taken into account:

Current provision in the Act: "demographic profile of the national and regional economically active population (EAP)". Proposed change in the Bill: "demographic profile of the economically active population".

It is important to note that nowhere in the proposed change is there a proposal to remove 'regional' and leave 'national', in fact, both 'national and regional' are removed. The reason for removal of the two elements is that employers have been enquiring over the years from the Department of Labour how they should implement both regional and national demographics of the EAP in their workplaces. As a result of these enquiries, the change is being proposed.

The intended outcome of the new proposed amendment is that the employers will have the flexibility to decide whether to use regional or national demographics depending on their operations.

"These changes do not in any way affect negatively the employment opportunities for the Coloured and/or Indian population. In fact, it makes it easier for employers to comply with the law and create more job opportunities for all the designated groups,'' said President Zuma.

"We have a duty to work together in both the private and public sectors to ensure that employment equity legislation succeeds to correct the wrongs of the past and benefits Africans, Coloureds, Indians, women, youth and persons with disability. Members of the public will have an opportunity to make representations to Parliament at the right time,'' added President Zuma.

The President added that government remained fully committed to the equality clauses in the Constitution and that the State will not discriminate against anybody on the basis of colour, race, religion and other aspects of diversity.

The demographic profile of the Economically Active Population in the Western Cape as published by StatsSA in the Labour Force Survey of September 2009, referring to people from 15 to 64 years old that are employed and those that are unemployed, but seeking work, reflected that Coloured citizens at 14.3% are grossly under-represented at the Top Management level.

The 10th Commission on Employment Equity Report released by the Department of Labour in July 2010 also revealed that transformation in the workplace remained very slow. The report indicated that 10 years after the introduction of the Employment Equity Act, white men continued to hold 63% of top management positions in the private sector. African women are at less than 6% and coloured and Indian women were at one percent each.

Statement issued by The Presidency, March 7 2011

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