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EMPLOYMENT EQUITY: WHY DOES GOVERNMENT WANT TO HOBBLE LARGE BUSINESSES?

Michael Bagraim | 18 February 2024



Draft Regulations on Proposed Sectoral Numerical Targets were printed in The Government Gazette on February 1, 2024. This set of regulations is open for public comment for 90 days from February 1, 2024. Should any member of the public wish to comment on the regulations after having read them, they should write to: Innocent. makwarela@labour.gov.za


Although I do not accept the necessity or the legality of the Employment Equity Act and its regulation, it is necessary to carefully look at these regulations and to comment thereon.


I will be sending in my comments in due course to the ministry. The minister may set Sectoral Numerical Targets after identifying National Economic Sectors. The minister must consult with the relevant sectors to ensure the equitable representation of suitably qualified people from designated groups at all occupational levels in the workplace.

Furthermore, the minister may set numerical targets for any National Economic Sector identified. Indeed, the minister has identified 18 economic sectors which covers almost the entire economy. The minister is hellbent on social engineering of the worst kind.


One would have thought that South Africa has had enough of social engineering when the apartheid government was dismantled. Once again, here in South Africa in 2024, we find ourselves structuring employment on the basis of skin colour.


The employment targets complicate at almost industry and every region. The targets are set for five years and the government would have us believe that they took some factors into account in setting these targets.


I have no doubt in my mind that the factors they outline were not taken into account. For instance, they were supposed to take into account skills availability, economic and market forces, ownership and the demographic profile of the National and Regional – Provincial Economically Active Population.


All this whilst almost 50% of the workforce are unable to find work. They have the gall to tell us that the proposed targets are minimum targets and are key milestones toward achieving the equitable representation.


One would think that any reasonable and efficient government would rather try and improve the economy and grow the economic cake instead of shrinking the cake and then cutting it up in terms of targets. It makes no sense whatsoever.


There is one small piece of good news which does shine out in this ridiculous set of circumstances. The regulations define who a designated employer is: “Designated Employers are those who employ 50 or more employees”.


In other words, a business employing less than 50 employees will not be bound by these regulations. Small businesses under 50 employees are not designated employers and are not enforced to adhere to the archaic draft regulations. It is a well known fact that it is the small business sector (in other words businesses employing under 50 employees) are the engine room of job creation of the future. Government understands the need to free up small business and are in this piece of regulation at least structuring it that small businesses do not suffer under the yoke of these harsh numerical targets.


In other words, government fully understands that the targets are harsh and businesses will suffer. If that is the case, then why is government wanting to hobble businesses who employ over 50 employees? Is this not encouraging businesses not to grow beyond 50 employees? In essence, our government seems hellbent on destroying the business community’s capability of employing South Africans. Is it not easier to avoid the regulations and get your goods manufactured abroad? Why is government wanting to encourage people to rather outsource manufacturing to other jurisdictions?


Government wants us to believe that this affirmative action will create more employment for black people, women and the disabled. It should not come as a shock to them to hear that in fact it’s done exactly the opposite. In fact, any affirmative action anywhere in the world has not been effective. Even here in South Africa the whole idea was for the affirmative action to be put in for a short period of time to obtain equality.


This concept is in fact repeated in the regulations: “Affirmative action is a coherent packet of measures, of a temporary nature, aimed specifically at correcting the position of member of a target group as defined in the Employment Equity Act in the workplace, in order to obtain effective equality”. Well, it is important for me to state again that we have done exactly the opposite.


The target groups in South Africa have suffered the most under the ANC government. It is quite apparent when one looks at the employment figures. Those who make up the majority of the unemployment queues are the very people that the legislation had purported to help but, 30 years later, the situation continues to go from bad to worse.


‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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