Race, rain­bows and work

CityPress - - Voices -

It will take 20 years for South Africa’s black bosses to out­num­ber their white coun­ter­parts. But black se­nior man­agers are likely to out­pace their white coun­ter­parts within five years.

This is the City Press cal­cu­la­tion based on the re­lease this week of the an­nual barom­e­ter to mea­sure progress on em­ploy­ment eq­uity.

The Com­mis­sion on Em­ploy­ment Eq­uity re­vealed a pic­ture we know well, but it con­tains signs of im­por­tant progress and a few “colour caveats”. First, the good news: the num­ber of African, coloured and In­dian pro­fes­sion­als is grow­ing apace. This means that the black skills base is im­prov­ing and reach­ing close to par­ity with white pro­fes­sion­als. This de­serves a yip-yip.

Pro­fes­sion­ally qual­i­fied in­di­vid­u­als drive the pri­vate sec­tor, the state and not-for-prof­its. It is vi­tal for good race re­la­tions that South African work­places in all three sec­tors rep­re­sent South Africa’s de­mo­graphic. This is nec­es­sary if we are to break the apartheid sys­tems of job reser­va­tion and racial baaskap. South Africa cel­e­brated 22 years of political free­dom this week, but the progress to­wards di­ver­sity and work­place free­dom is too slow.

At se­nior man­age­ment level, the gap be­tween black and white man­agers, as a pro­por­tion of to­tal, is lag­ging. It is par­tic­u­larly stub­born in the pri­vate sec­tor and the big­gest gap is in the pow­er­house sec­tors such as fi­nance. The re­port finds that, to reach the top C-suites, whites and In­di­ans are do­ing much bet­ter than African and coloured peo­ple as a pro­por­tion of pop­u­la­tion. Yet if the num­ber of skilled pro­fes­sion­als is grow­ing, what’s the prob­lem?

“There is a pool of em­ploy­ees from des­ig­nated groups [African, coloured, In­dian and all women] who do not re­ceive pro­mo­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties and re­main stuck at the pro­fes­sion­ally qual­i­fied and skilled tech­ni­cal lev­els,” says the com­mis­sion.

The com­mis­sion be­lieves the pri­vate sec­tor has a sys­tem of “un­writ­ten quo­tas” where it will, for ex­am­ple, in­crease fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion while drop­ping broad black em­ploy­ment. For women, there is still a shat­ter­proof glass ceil­ing and fe­male top man­agers make up only 21.4% of the to­tal, up slightly from 20.9% in 2014. Yet the to­tal num­ber of fe­male pro­fes­sion­als is at near par­ity with men.

This sug­gests women are not be­ing pro­moted, even if they are avail­able for big­ger jobs.

And, here’s a fi­nal line from the re­port we should all heed: “The labour mar­ket is seg­mented into a di­chotomy, where the pri­vate sec­tor is the big­gest em­ployer for white and In­dian groups, while Africans and coloureds are em­ployed to a large ex­tent by gov­ern­ment.” If this is cor­rect, it’s a new kind of apartheid. We ought to avoid it.

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