Commission for Employment Equity briefing, with the Minister

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Employment and Labour

27 November 2019
Chairperson: Ms M Dunjwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Commission for Employment Equity, led by its chairperson, presented findings on the trends for the period between 2016 and 2018. The Commission reported that top management positions in the private sector are dominated by white males and there has been only a 1% decrease annually. The white population accounts for more than two-thirds of top management positions in the private sector, while the African population accounts for just over three-quarters of top management positions in government.

Trends indicate 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. Males accounted for 54.7% of those aged 15 to 65 years who were in jobs or seeking work, and females 45.3%. The situation on national gender lines was thus more representative of demographic realities, although the there is room for improvement. The trends on the professionally qualified population and those who are semi-skilled were also discussed, along with employment trends for persons with disabilities.

The Commission reported on how the amendments to the Employment Equity Act will deal with workplace sexual harassment and other matters and said that drafts will be available for the public to comment on. Every employer that seeks to conduct business with government must comply with the law through obtaining a compliance certificate for race and gender representation. The Department of Labour will enforce the process.

The Committee and the Commission unanimously agreed that transformation in the workplace has been slow and that the data provided by the Commission reinforces that perception. Drastic action through education and intersectional sector collaboration should be a priority. Most importantly the rights of disabled people should take centre stage and more should be done to create an inclusive environment for all, especially since December is disability month. Moreover, the Commission is on route to upskill sector inspectors to investigate working conditions. Amendments to existing labour legislation to rectify definitions of work place sexual harassment are under way, however timelines are unavailable at present.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed all to the proceedings and stressed the importance of the meeting as employment is a huge issue in the country particularly among the youth who are restless and thus seek leadership from the executive for job creation. She also stated that the historical conception of South Africa as a result of apartheid cannot be devoid from the present, this is not to say that mistakes in the democratic dispensation have not occurred, but most problems arise as a result of the legacies of apartheid. Therefore, she hoped that the proceedings would be treated with the utmost detail and deliberation, but unfortunately in order for that to substantially occur, time would be of the essence.

Mr Thulas Nxesi, Minister of Employment and Labour, stated that there has been very little transformation along race and gender and thus even with existing legislation there has been very little progress. Although South Africa is an inclusive economy, there are forces that don’t want transformation particularly in the private sector which remains to adapt in the contemporary. He also criticized big institutions of organized business for not adapting transformation substantively and therefore as result employment equity, particularly in the private sector, should be tackled head on in being a priority. Government should strengthen regulation and existing methods of compliance. He concluded by stating that an equity compliance certificate should be in place in order to foster corporate social responsibility by businesses, particularly those who don’t want to comply. He also welcomed the collaboration of workers and unions in the advocacy to ensure employment equity.

Commission for Employment Equity presentation:

The Commission for Employment Equity (CEE), led by chairperson Ms Tabea Kabinde, first presented to the Committee the trends for the period between 2016 and 2018. The commission reported that top management positions in the private sector are dominated by White males and there had been only a 1% decrease annually. 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. Comparisons of top management between the public and the private sector show that in the private sector the representation of the White Population Group is nearly eight times their proportional share in the economically active population (EAP) while in government jobs the representation is more aligned to their share in the EAP. The private sector employs more foreign nationals than government at this occupational level.

Ms Kabinde explained that the EAP includes people from 15 to 64 years of age who are either employed or are unemployed and are seeking employment. Trends indicate that despite the EAP being mainly African (78.8%), the White population group dominated top management positions over the three years (2016 - 2018) which the Commission states is an appalling detriment to transformation and employment equity, particularly in a country where the African population is the majority in demographics.

The national employment profile of the EAP along gender lines was more representative although the Commission states there is room for improvement. Males accounted for 54.7% and females 45.3% However, the Commission highlighted a gender disparity in top management positions between males and females. The trend indicated that while female representation at the top management level is approximately half their representation in the EAP, accounting for 23.5%, males made up 76.5%. The Commission said this trend should be looked into as it indicated why there is a gender pay gap that is persistent along gender and racial lines.

The CEE report illustrates that the representation of persons with disabilities at the Senior Management level remains negligible, with 1.2% of senior management being disabled. Furthermore, the report indicates that Persons with Disabilities at top management level are mainly recruited from the White Population Group.

Looking at all employers, 54.4% of people in senior management positions are from the White population while 23.2% are African. On the gender spectrum, males account for 65.5% and females 34.5%.

The trends on the professionally qualified by population illustrated that 42.2% of professionally qualified people were Africans and 37.4% were White. On a gender basis, 55.1% of professionally qualified people were males and 44.1% females. Only 1.1% of professionally qualified people were disabled persons.

The highlights of the work of CEE during 2018/19 included publishing the Employment Equity Amendment Bill, 2018, and the Revised Employment Equity Regulations. These were open for public comment for 60 days from 21 September 2018 to 20 November 2018. The main objectives of the Amendments are to enhance the administration and compliance mechanisms of the Act by introducing­ the principle that providers of goods and services to any organ of State must comply with the provisions of the Act that are applicable to them. The Commission invited employers to participate in the Employment Equity Awards and consolidated efforts aimed at promoting equity in the labour market through strategic partnerships. The first awards event took place in 2015. The key objectives of the Employment Equity Awards include assessing and evaluating the overall transformation that has taken place; identifying and acknowledging employers that have innovative strategies for promoting sustainable, equitable and inclusive workforces; and recognising employers that excel in the implementation of the Employment Equity Act.

In the period under review, the Commission participated in key strategic advocacy fora and deliberations aimed at addressing the scourge of violence and harassment in the world of work.

In terms of strategic cooperation, the Commission of Employment Equity engages a number of bodies involved in the transformation space in relation to mandates and co-operation, i.e. the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Commission, Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), Commission on Gender Equality (CGE), Public Service Commission (PSC) and South African Human Rights Council (SAHRC). As mentioned above, social partners and a number of these institutions were involved in a high-level discussion on ending violence and harassment in the world of work at a workshop hosted by the CEE and International Labour Organization (ILO) in May 2018

The Labour, Organised Business, Community, PSC and the CGE agreed on considering the setting of sectoral targets. Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the PSC were concluded in September 2018. The purpose is to provide a cooperative framework between the CEE and the PSC with the view of sharing information, making referrals of complaints and improving compliance in the Public Service.

The share of the White demographic among top management decreased by 1%, therefore the Commission will champion the cause to make top management equitable

In order meet targets in line with the Employment Equity Act the Commission will enforce a compliance certificate for equitable representation and redress in the workplace, particularly in industries that lack in diversity within the gender, disability and race demographics

The analysis conducted by the Commission to assess barriers to entry in the workplace found that most employers agree that their business has no barriers, but the Commission found that gender and race demographics among African and Coloured people was lacking, particularly in middle and top management

The Commission stated that income differentials and wage gaps will be a priority in order to reduce inequality

The Commission stated that the implication of section 53 of the Employment Equity Act in terms of compliance will mandate that every employer that seeks to conduct business with government must comply through the compliance certificate for race and gender representation. The department of labour will enforce the process.

The Commission, in line with the mandate of substantive equality in creating an inclusive workplace, will review CCMA cases and evaluate their merit in terms of grievances that are in line with the compliance certificate.

The Commission stated that section 53 of the Employment Equity Act will also set targets for sectors for representativity compliance.

The Employment Equity Act will also deal with workplace sexual harassment and thus drafts and comments on its implementation will be available for the public to comment on.

The Commission stated that inspector training will be a priority to make sure accurate and efficient work is done with regards to their reports on their findings in the various sectors.


Mr N Hinana (DA) stated that its embarrassing that in 25 years of democracy there is a persistence in reduction in employment equity and therefore the director general and ministry should commit themselves. He further asked why the EAP has not been increased as the figures are appalling. What is the department of labour doing to lobby the private sector to commit themselves in compliance certification. He asked if the Commission could elaborate on the wage gap particularly in state owned enterprises as there are individuals that earn more than the president.

Dr M Cardo (DA) asked how statistics can be represented properly without continuous retrenchment data. He also stated that there needs to be a focus on training and education as these are the sectors that need attention to foster more skilled individuals that can be absorbed in skill-scarce areas. He asked how disability is going to be addressed especially with employers who are reluctant to hire as there is stigma and lack of education to integrate disabled people into the workforce.

Mr M Bagraim (DA) asked when exactly the employment equity bill will be tabled and what the punitive measures is that will be meted out to employers who are non-compliant. He also asked what the Employment Equity Act has done to increase equality, particularly in sectors that are not transformative even with legislation in place

Mr S Mdabe (ANC) asked how the Department will verify the proposed compliance certificate as the existing mechanism of authentication with regards to government documents can be falsified. She also asked what skills that are obtained by foreign nationals that are not available amongst South African citizens, as the report indicates a high number of foreign nationals in employment. Also why hasn’t the Department collaborated with the education sector to achieve equity by fostering and absorbing talent at a faster rate and thus does the commissioner have a date and time for equity goals proposed in the report.

Ms H Denner (FF Plus) asked what the average age of the Economically Active Population is. What support is has been given by government to help businesses with the Employment Equity Act in order to implement the bill? She also asked if it wouldn’t be better to relax legislation so employers can be without bureaucracy. This can help with efficiency and productivity to foster employment

Ms A Zuma (ANC) asked how the Commission is going to address graduate employment and thus how many factories did the Commission visit when it conducted reporting about various businesses in the primary and manufacturing sector. She also asked if the Commission organized or found any significant data on the disabled and female demographic in the report as they are one of the most marginalized groups and thus face many barriers to entry.

Ms N Hermans (ANC) asked how the establishment of the Employment Equity Act will increase representation within top management as the data shows that is the demographic most untransformed over the 2016 and 2018 tenure.

Ms N Nkabane (ANC) asked if the acts chronicled by the Commission that are going to be amended, when are they going to complete that process and thus with the lack of representation in top management, what is the target percentage for transformation set by the Commission to realise substantive change. She also asked what corrective measures and interventions are there for migrant workers as they are the most exploited by employers due to their vulnerability and the ability to live on minimum wage.

Ms Kabinde stated that she would answer the questions posed by order of relevance to the presentation. She stated that the average age of the EAP is not available as data has not been compiled in that regard. However she noted remarks to integrate the age demographic. Regarding the set targets for employment equity, she stated that the targets are not quotas as what people would perceive. The targets are guidelines that are set in conjunction with legislation such as the Employment Equity Act to create equitable representation. Regarding sector targets specifically, the Commission will communicate the data and statistics to employers in various sectors and thus use the data as leverage to probe why hasn’t representation manifested in various sectors, particularly those within top management who must implement the Employment Equity Act to regenerate representation of the Economically Active Population along race and gender demographics.

She stated that foreign nationals are mostly in top management although there are some in other sectors. The representation of foreign nationals in top management is as a result of appointments by various multinational companies as they headhunt individuals that are synonymous with the companies needs, particularly in internal appointments, hence foreign executives are represented in top management. However it is not an indictment against South African capabilities.

She stated that the trend analysis has shown that even though the economy historically has done well, there is no correlation with economic growth and transformation. Therefore the idea of hiring certain individuals due to prevalent economic conditions isn’t entirely true. Business in their senior positions still hire White males in their top positions.

She stated that education is critical. The historical conception of the South Africa education system was designed to marginalise and the country is still grappling with the legacies of that system, hence legislation such as the Skills Development and Employment Equity Act are collaborative tools that should be rigorous. They need to be implemented by sectors and employers in the workplace to foster transformation, particularly for skilled individuals that have been historically denied access. Class privilege is still benefitting White individuals through various streams such as work place dynamics were someone who is not white is undermined and thus the organisational culture reinforces notions of racism.

Regarding the Commissions sector inspectors, she stated that she is not at liberty to disclose the inner workings of the Commission yet as its still a confidential process that is undergoing. However the Commission will establish a hotline as the first way of democratising he process.

The Commission has already established and provisioned a budget for people with disabilities for workshops and empowerment events in order to hear the grievances of those who have long been ignored through a violent system of erasure and exclusion.

Commissioner Shoki Tshabalala stated that employment conditions and their improvement are a priority and thus exploitation of any worker within the confines of South Africa is against the law and as such the Commission will take steps to ensure that the law is upheld against those who don’t abide by it. She also stated that since its disability month the Commission will run with the message that “my disability is your inability to understand my needs”. This is a message that the Commission will make ubiquitous through the month and thus raise awareness about disabled people

Commissioner Annelie Geldenhuys stated that the Commission will look into South Africa’s labour law in terms of addressing sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, as existing legislation with regards to that matter has ambiguous definitions as to what constitutes as sexual harassment and dealing with sexual violence in a setting where dynamics of power come into play.

BBBEE Commissioner Zodwa Ntuli stated the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Act and Employment Equity Act (EEA) are pivotal legislation and all stakeholders have to abide within the confines of legislation to achieve inclusivity as South Africa is known as one of the most unequal societies in the world. Redress has been slow, therefore transformative legislation will be a priority. She also stated that with verification and authentication of certificates the Commission along with the Department will harness existing and new technologies to make sure no one falsifies documents.

EEA Commissioner Ntsoaki Mamashela responded to concerns on how compliance will be achieved with businesses that do not do business with government and thus don’t need any compliance. These are not a problem as all businesses are still mandated by law through legislation under schedule 1 of the Employment Equity Act to emulate the law mandated and thus any business that refuses to do so will receive punitive measures meted out by the Labour Court with a fine up to R 1 million.

Ms Kabinde stated that South Africa is one of the countries that champions redress in its legislation more than any other country in the world. It is the only country where the minority, in terms of White people, wield more power than the majority of the African population. Therefore, when transformation is looked at in that perspective, outrage is justified and thus there needs to be rapid change.

The Chairperson welcomed all inputs made and adjourned the meeting.


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