Affirmative action helps to narrow wage gap - UN paper

Jul 20 2016 13:11
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town - Although the wage gap between white and black employees has not normalised yet, it is slowly starting to narrow thanks to the introduction of employment equity legislation in South Africa, according to a working paper published by the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research, part of the United Nations University.

The authors of the paper found that wage gaps between black and white workers widened in the immediate post-apartheid period. Only from 2005, since the enactment of the Black Economic Empowerment Act, has workplace discrimination started to decline.

“Existing studies report limited effects of affirmative action policies, with highly skilled occupations still dominated by white men, and racial gaps remained higher than in 1997,” the report said.

READ: Shocking data exposes SA salary shame

However, the authors’ updated research showed that discrimination did start to decline, albeit modestly. This tendency is not ascribed to business cycle variations, but rather shows that employment equity legislation has been successful in addressing discriminatory practices.

Although generations that entered the labour market at the height of apartheid experienced higher discrimination, the study also found that the generational component of discrimination has not yet changed. “New entrants are facing higher discrimination than retirees,” the report said.

The exact explanation for this pattern is difficult to pinpoint, but a possible reason could be the persistent racial gap in the quality of education that continues to be a stumbling block in labour market opportunities between white and black workers.

The research concluded that affirmative action legislation has led to reforms to create more equal opportunities for black and white men.

ALSO READ: Gender-wage gap persists - PwC


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affirmative action  |  inequality



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