South Africa’s controversial ‘race quota’ law stirs debate

Business & TechSOUTH AFRICA

The legislation is part of “new measures to promote diversity and equality in the workplace”, the government said. Like the principles of Black Economic Empowerment, the original act was crafted in part to promote the economic empowerment of Black South Africans who were systematically marginalised during apartheid.

Yet years later, the continent’s most industrialised economy still has “one of the highest and most persistent inequality rates in the world” which is “perpetuated by a legacy of exclusion”, according to the World Bank.

Nearly 40 percent of Black South Africans were unemployed in the first three months of 2023, while the jobless rate was 7.5 percent among white people, according to official figures (PDF).

At the higher echelons of business, inequality is also evident: Black people who make up 80 percent of the employable population account for 16.9 percent of top management jobs, while white people who comprise about 8 percent of the employable population hold 62.9 percent of top management jobs (PDF).

Twenty-five years since the enactment of the original EEA, “this is still the picture and nothing has changed,” Masilo Lefika, the Department of Employment and Labour’s deputy director for employment equity said in a statement this week.

People hold placards asking for jobs in south Africa
Unemployed men hold placards offering casual employment services in Johannesburg [File: Siphiwe

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