Top management in private sector still 'lily-white' and male - labour minister

Employment Equity trends for the period between 2016 and 2018 show that top management positions in the private sector are dominated by white males.

This is according to a report by the Commission for Employment Equity, presented to the portfolio committee on employment and labour on Wednesday.

Trends show that despite the majority of the economically active population being African (78.8%), the white population group dominated top management positions over the three years (2016 - 2018).

The white population accounts for more than two-thirds (69.6%) of top management positions in the private sector, while the African population accounts for just over three-quarters (76%) of top management positions in government.

Males still dominate top management positions across population groups.

Unrelated to the meeting held with the portfolio committee, later on Wednesday, Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi commented on the state of employment equity. The minister was answering questions in the National Council of Provinces related to employment policy.

He said that while the majority of South Africans are black, top management in private companies is still "lily-white" and male.

'Non-negotiable' issue

"The issue of employment equity is non-negotiable," he said, before vowing that there would be more measures to enforce it. "People [employers] can't want to benefit from government but not want to transform," he said.

The Employment Equity Amendment Bill of 2019 is in the process of being finalised and is intended to be implemented from September 1, 2020, according to the Commission. The bill is to be tabled in Cabinet before the end of November. Thereafter it is expected to be finalised by Parliament by May or June of 2020.

Major amendments include making the issuance of an EE compliance certificate a prerequisite for companies to do business with the state. Amendments will also allow the minister, on the advice of the Commission, to regulate sector-specific employment equity targets.

Democratic Alliance MP Michael Cardo on Wednesday issued a statement indicating that the amendments would "kill economic growth and destroy jobs". He said that the statistics on employment equity in the country reflected the failure of existing legislation.

"The time has come to rethink both EE and BEE. They are failed policies," he said. Cardo said that skills development should be prioritised instead to ensure people can enter top management positions.

Nxesi told members of the NCOP that the reason there is a lack of skills lies in the structure of the economy, which is being addressed. "Most young people do not have skills that matter … Today we are putting thousands, if not millions of young people in colleges or universities to get the skills required," he said.

Nxesi said there is a programme to deal with the structural issues of the economy. 

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