Firms are failing black youth

2010-07-31 10:07

The 10th annual report of the ­Employment Equity Commission ­released this week has found that transformation in the workplace has been slow as many companies have been failing to hire skilled black youngsters.

The report found that white ­graduates had easier access to jobs and better chances of promotion.

The Employment Equity Commission 2009/10 report, which reviewed 74 big companies, showed that 39% of new recruits last year were white professionals. The commission’s ­target for skilled white labour recruitment stands at 12%.

A skilled worker is defined as someone who has a tertiary qualification.

Whites constitute 9% of the country’s total population, while black people constitute 79%, Coloureds 9% and Indians 2.6%.

Newly appointed Employment Equity Commission chairperson Mpho Nkeli said if firms continued to hire more white people, workplace racism would continue for many years.

Her view was supported by Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, who added that the law should be changed to make it a criminal offence for companies to fail to comply with the Employment Equity Act.

He proposed that the Labour ­Department be empowered to issue spot fines to non-compliant firms.

“If the traffic police can give you a ticket on the spot for speeding, why can’t our department immediately give you a fine if you are found to be not complying with the law?” asked Mdladlana.

Another proposal was for the ­government to start awarding ­tenders based on a company’s ­employment equity status.

The commission’s report showed that 39% of employees who were ­taken through skills development programmes were white, surpassing the commission’s target of 12%. Last year, companies beefed up the skills of 37% of black employees.

The report found that it was not ­only junior staff who were not ­affirmed. The pace of transformation has moved slowly even in senior and top-management positions, with Indians being the only group to have largely benefited from the Employment Equity Act.

Indians have surpassed their ­employment equity target of 3% as 8.6% are in top and senior ­management.

However, over the past 10 years, Coloureds have suffered the most from workplace racism as their ­presence in top-management positions has declined to 6% from 11.6% since 2001. This means there are two senior African managers for every six white managers, and one Indian and Coloured manager.

Mdladlana said some companies were involved in unscrupulous ­conduct in using foreign nationals to meet the targets of the Employment Equity Act. Those companies have reported that the number of foreign nationals in top management stood at 2.9%

“Some people may criticise us for fuelling xenophobia when in actual fact we are encouraging companies not to break the law,” said Mdladlana.

Young Communist League national secretary Buti Manamela said it was worrying that many companies preferred to absorb more white ­people into the labour market.

“This behaviour is not consistent with the law, and the labour department needs to do more to monitor the private sector,” he said.

“Many black people still do not ­believe there has been transformation in the workplace.”

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