BY COLLEEN GOKO, 02 APRIL 2013, 18:32
WHITE men living in Gauteng still top the pay scale, according to the latest South Africa Survey published by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR).
The survey comes at a time when the nation is debating whether affirmative action and black economic empowerment (BEE) legislation should be scrapped or reformed.
Last month in the National Assembly, President Jacob Zuma emphasised that affirmative action and BEE were constitutional imperatives designed to correct the exclusion forced on Africans, coloureds and Indians during the apartheid years.
“With regard to the management of the economy, the 2012 employment equity report indicated that, in the senior management category, white males comprise 59.1%,” Mr Zuma said. “Black people are the most underrepresented in this category at 21.8%. The economy is therefore still controlled by white males.”
He added: “What is important is the need to accept that apartheid left a legacy of inequality and exclusion based on race whose impact will take decades to completely undo.”
According to the South Africa Survey, in 2011 the median monthly wage for African earners was R2,380, for coloured earners R3,030, for Indian earners R6,800 and for white earners R10,000.
John Endres, CEO of Good Governance Africa, a research and advocacy organisation, said these figures were a further indication of how BEE had failed in South Africa.
“BEE has not closed the income between white and black,” he said. “In 1996, white income was 7.9 times higher than black income and in 2011 it was 7.7 times higher. More seriously, it has not made a dent in our astronomical unemployment figures, which affect black citizens disproportionately, keeping them disempowered and poor.”
Mr Endres said the only time since 1994 that South Africa’s unemployment had dropped was between 2003 and 2008, when the economy grew at a rate of more than 4%.
“To reduce unemployment and empower previously disadvantaged citizens, we need to focus on economic growth — where one of the limiting factors is BEE,” he said. “The plausible alternative to BEE is a radical overhaul of our education system. Citizens deprived of a quality education will never become empowered citizens, BEE or no BEE.”
The survey also indicated that the lowest-paid employees were African women living in Limpopo aged between 15 and 24.
Georgina Alexander, a researcher at the SAIRR, said: “The data show where the discrepancies in earnings lie. It must be noted, however, that it takes into account those who earn salaries only. The largest and most enduring inequality in South Africa is between those who are employed and those who are not.”