Equity and Neutrality
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South Africa’s main opposition party called for mass demonstrations this week to protest against a new employment law that critics say will lead to job losses, Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday.
The 2020 Employment Equity Act – due to take effect in September – will require companies with more than 50 employees to set “equity targets” reflecting the demography of the region they are operating in, and issue plans on how they intend to achieve them.
It also allows the country’s labor minister to set numerical targets for specific economic sectors.
But the Democratic Alliance – an opposition party that has traditionally appealed to a predominantly white electorate – warned that qualified workers could lose their jobs. It described the legislation as a “race quotas” bill, adding that it violates South Africa’s constitutional principle of racial neutrality.
Meanwhile, businesses worry that the bill threatens private employers whose workforce does not mirror racial demographics.
However, officials countered that the law will not result in job losses but promote diversity in the workforce.
Despite three decades passing since the end of apartheid, South Africa continues to suffer from significant inequalities – the World Bank says it’s “the most unequal country in the world.”
Official figures show that nearly half of Black South Africans were unemployed during the first three months of 2023, whereas the joblessness rate among White South Africans was only 9.5 percent.
The recent controversy comes as South Africa prepares for elections next year. Polls indicate that the ruling African National Congress, which has been in power since the end of apartheid in 1994, faces the possibility of seeing its vote share fall below 50 percent.