My study blog

Affirmative action

Posted by lednum on September 14, 2006

 The policy of affirmative action in South Africa is based on the employment Equality act of 1999. It legalises reverse or positive discrimination. Under reverse discrimination, black South Africans are entitled to preferential treatment in hiring, promotion, university admissions and the awarding of government contracts.

White Paper

Affirmative Action in the Public Service

Department of Public Service and Administration

March 1998

The core principles for affirmative action are:

Integration with human resource management and development
Affirmative action programmes must be integrated with other human resource management and development practices, especially the management of diversity.

Productivity and improved service delivery
Affirmative action programmes must promote the development of more innovative work practices which maximise productivity and increase customer-responsiveness.

Cost effectiveness
Affirmative action programmes must focus on steps which optimise the Public Service’s human and financial resources.

The purpose of affirmative action policies and programmes must be fully communicated to all public servants.

Affirmative action programmes must be developed with the active participation of employees at all levels, and with representatives of organised labour.

Affirmative action programmes and practices must be open to scrutiny within and outside the Public Service, within reasonable limits.

Accountability for the delivery of affirmative action must be vested at the highest level of the organisation, with all line managers being vested with the responsibility of driving the process.

Reasonable accommodation
Affirmative action programmes must strive to eradicate barriers to employment and advancement in the physical and organisational environment and provide support of all members of the target group.

Relative disadvantage
Affirmative action must take into account the relative disadvantaged status of groups, their needs within the target group and the needs of the organisation.

1.9 The White Paper: Human Resource Management in the Public Service describes how national departments and provincial administrations will have to transform their human resource policies and practices in order to achieve increased representation. However these measures are unlikely, alone, to deliver the necessary results in the required timescale, as the following table indicates:

  White Paper on the Transformation of the Public Service Position in December 1997 Gap to be   filled
Percentage of black people at management level* 50% by 1999 33% 17%
Percentage of women new recruits to the management level 30% by 1999 13% 17%
Percentage of people with disabilities** 2% by 2005 0,02% 1,98%

* The term ‘management level’ refers to the ranks of Director and equivalent positions as well as higher ranking positions.
** Approximate figures. It is a feature of the dispensation on disability that reliable information on people with disabilities has not been systematically collected.

1.10 The targets in the White Paper on the Transformation of the Public Service are minimum national targets. They do not represent the ultimate goal, which is that all groups and levels within the Public Service should be representative of society as a whole. For example, the target of 2% for people with disabilities is still well below the 5% of people with disabilities in society as a whole; and the 30% figure for the recruitment of women is only an interim step to achieving their full demographic representation. The targets in the White Paper on the Transformation of the Public Service therefore represent only a baseline, on which national departments and provincial administrations should aim to improve. Moreover, national departments and provincial administrations must also develop more refined targets to deal with specific inequalities within particular occupation groups and levels. The Government will review and re-set the national minimum targets by the end of 2000 and every three years thereafter.

Black people

1.12 Systematic educational discrimination against black people in the past and the blocking of opportunities for economic advancement have denied many the formal educational qualifications and necessary experience for entry into and advancement within certain types of occupations, especially technical occupations and managerial level posts. Within the Public Service this has resulted in the majority of black people doing low level work with low pay. This in turn results in there being a significant gap in wages between the different race groups and the creation of an unrepresentative body at the strategic decision making levels of the Public Service

Objectives2.2 The objectives of the Public Service affirmative action policy are, within the framework of the Employment Equity Bill and other relevant labour and Public Service legislation, to:

  1. Enhance the capacities of the historically disadvantaged through the development and introduction of practical measures that support their advancement within the Public Service.
  2. Inculcate in the Public Service a culture which values diversity and support the affirmation of those who have previously been unfairly disadvantaged.
  3. Speed up the achievement and progressive improvement of the numeric targets set out in the White Paper on the Transformation of the Public Service.

Employee profile3.6 Departments must maintain accurate and comprehensive statistics on all employees broken down by gender, race and disability information, which is updated annually. The categories women, men, African, Indian, Coloured, White and disability must be reflected in Bathe statistics collected which will include:

  • The total number of employees broken down by occupation (e.g. nurse, teacher, admin clerk), level of the position (e.g. senior nurse, grade two clerk), salary grade, notch within the grade and status as temporary or permanent employee.
  • The total number of employees receiving fringe benefits and the type of fringe benefits (e.g. medical aid, home loan, housing subsidy and pension).
  • The total number of employees receiving monetary allowances and awards and the type of allowance or award (e.g. danger allowance, performance related pay such as merit awards, or second and third notch improvements).
  • The number of employees recruited in the previous 12 months, and the occupation and level within the position to which they were recruited.
  • The number of employees promoted in the previous 12 months and the level of the position to which they were promoted.
  • The number and type of training and development programmes provided, the number of employees and who participated in these and the levels of training provided.

3.7 The categories ‘White’ and ‘men’ must be included in the employee profile for reasons of comparison and to ensure that broad representation for all groups in being pursued. As there is a tendency not to apply the race-disability-gender categories to gender and disability information, it needs to be stressed that a race and disability analysis must be applied to the ‘women’ target group while race and gender must be applied to the ‘disability’ target group.


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