Human Resources South Africa

Basic Guide to Affirmative Action in South Africa

Basic Guide to Affirmative Action in South Africa

February 16
08:00 2011

Affirmative action in South Africa refers to policies that take factors including “race, colour, religion, sex or national origin” into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination. The focus of such policies ranges from employment and education to public contracting and health programs. Affirmative action in South Africa ensures that qualified people from designated groups have equal opportunities in the workplace.

Due to apartheid in South Africa favoured white-owned companies and as a result, the majority of employers in South Africa were, and still are owned by white people. The aforementioned policies achieved the desired results, but in the process they marginalised and excluded black people. Skilled jobs were also reserved for white people, and blacks were largely used as unskilled labour.

It has been argued that affirmative action in South Africa benefits people of colour who are already well off or have middle class advantages, not the poor and working class people of colour who most need it. A more careful analysis reveals that affirmative action programs have benefited substantial numbers of poor and working class people of colour. Access to job training programs, vocational schools, and semi-skilled and skilled blue-collar, craft, pink-collar, police and fire-fighters jobs has increased substantially through affirmative action programs. Even in the professions, many people of colour who have benefited from affirmative action have been from families of low income and job status.

The policies of affirmative action indirectly give rise to reverse discrimination. The idea of affirmative action in South Africa is to give support and assistance to the previously discriminated group, for a better future. The fact however is, that many previously discriminated members belong to the economically middle and upper class families and still, they get the advantage of affirmative action policies. A poor white student who works harder avails no benefit and lags behind in the competition. So, isn’t this a discrimination against the minority class? And how come middle and upper class minorities, now in good financial position, are still enjoying the benefits of affirmative action? These questions need to be answered.

Another argument raised against affirmative action in South Africa is that individual white people, often white males, have to pay for past discrimination and may not get the jobs they deserve. It is true that specific white people may not get specific job opportunities because of affirmative action policies and may suffer as a result. This lack of opportunity is unfortunate; the structural factors which produce a lack of decent jobs needs to be addressed. It must not be forgotten that millions of specific people of colour have also lost specific job opportunities as a result of racial discrimination. To be concerned only with the white applicants who don’t get the job, and not with the people of colour who don’t, is showing racial preference.

Pages: 1 2

About Author



Related Articles

1 Comment

  1. George
    George September 14, 14:16

    The Reason why AA cannot work in South Africa, is because:
    •You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity, by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
    •What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
    •The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
    •You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.
    •When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation!

    Reply to this comment

Write a Comment