Demographic requirements will kill jobs - Ian Ollis

DA MP says it is unfortunate that coloureds and Indians will be targeted by amendment

Labour Laws: Reports confirm our concerns over job-killing demographic requirements

This morning's City Press details how one million economically active coloured South Africans in the Western Cape and 350 000 Indian South Africans in KwaZulu-Natal stand to lose their jobs if the government's proposed new labour laws are passed. This is in addition to the more than 2 million South Africans whose jobs will be threatened by the legislation's de facto ban on labour broking - a figure confirmed by the Department of Labour's own economic impact assessment report.

It is unfortunate that the effect of the ANC's proposed legislation arbitrarily targets coloured and Indian South Africans - in the fight to generate prosperity, all South Africans should be given an equal chance to succeed. It is possible to ensure that chance does not discriminate against some without compromising the necessity to give people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds special attention. But to do that, our legislation must promote growth and opportunity, and that is something these new proposals do not do. Not only will they destroy rather than create jobs, they will target unfairly some South Africans at the expense of others.

The offending provision, which could target particular demographic groups, is contained within the Employment Equity Amendment Bill. It amends section 42 of the Employment Equity Act, which currently reads:

"In determining whether a designated employer is implementing employment equity in compliance with this Act, the Director-General or any person or body applying this Act must, in addition to the factors stated in section 15, take into account all of the following into account... The extent to which suitably qualified people from and amongst the different designated groups are equitably represented within each occupational category and level in that employer's workforce in relation to the demographic profile of the national and regional economically active population..."

The Amendment Bill currently before the House seeks to remove the distinction drawn in the final sentence of s42(a)(i) between national andnational economically active populations. The amended version simply refers to "the demographic profile of the economically active population".

In other words, it will impose national demographics as the determining factor for affirmative action, irrespective of the demographics of a particular province or region.

The study referred to this morning by the City Press bears out exactly what my colleague George Boinamo MP and I said in the discussion document that we released in early January - that this amendment is a one-size-fits-all measure that will cause severe job losses by enforcing general national demographics across all provinces. We pointed out that by failing to consider unique provincial demographics, the policy would arbitrarily discriminate on the basis of race, and potentially create enormous economic chaos.

It amounts, in short, to tinkering by race - a measure that will hurt any demographic group that is more densely located in one province than the national norm. Indeed, it will not only hurt coloured and Indian South Africans - in provinces with a larger proportion of black South Africans than the national average, like Limpopo, the provision could work against black South Africans in the same sort of way. Unfortunately the report released this morning does not seem to analyse this particular matter, but we will conduct our own research into it.

We have said that we will look seriously at challenging these laws in court, because these proposed laws appear to be unconstitutional in several respects. They will create enormous problems in a country where one in three economically active citizens are unable to find work.

We will continue to work intensively towards addressing the problems with these legislative proposals in the Labour Portfolio Committee.

Statement issued by Ian Ollis MP, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Labour, February 20 2011

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter