Last week, the Commission on Employment Equity (CEE) released its 11th Annual Report, which focuses on the state of workplace transformation in South Africa.
In her foreword to the report, Chairperson Mpho Nkeli comments on ‘clear signs [of progress] in reports received from employers for the 2010 reporting period‘, although she also warns that ‘generally, the representation of Coloured, women and people with disabilities still lags behind at most levels when measured against their Economically Active Population (EAP)’. Nkeli also encourages employers to continue implementing Employment Equity (EE), even during times of economic insecurity: ‘tough trading conditions and the negative effects of the recession must not deter people from putting pedal in order to drive and accelerate transformation‘.
This tone reflects something of an increased optimism from that captured in the Commission’s 10th Annual Report, which Nkeli described as ‘discouraging because it indicates a very slow progress on transformation and potential to erode the insignificant achievement made to-date.‘
However, the 2011 report also confirms that transformation remains an extremely slow process: in the last reporting period, 73% of top management in South Africa was white, and 81% male. Only 1.4% were persons with disabilities.
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has expressed far more negative views on the results presented in the 2011 report. In a subsequent column for ANC Today, the Minister deemed the pace of change ‘disappointing‘, ‘discomforting‘ and ‘disconcerting‘. Oliphant writes,
‘It is thirteen years since the enactment of the Employment Equity Act; this gloomy picture is a call for drastic measures to be taken not only by the government, but in partnership with organised business, organised labour and community as a whole.‘
According to Oliphant, the Department of Labour and the CEE are working to amend the Employment Equity Act, with deliberations currently taking place in NEDLAC. These amendments aim to ‘close gaps’ and strengthen implementation and enforcement measures, including court referral processes, evidentiary compliance, and ‘up-scaling fines sufficiently to deter designated employers from not complying with the Act’.