Race remains a significant indicator of income level in South Africa, says Mmusi Maimane, leader of South African opposition party, Democratic Alliance.
Black South Africans are still being disproportionately withheld from opportunities that most white people take for granted, Maimane said Wednesday at the Democratic Alliance Students’ Organisation at the University of Cape Town.
“The reality is that unemployment among black South Africans stands at 39 percent compared to 8.3 percent among whites,” he said.
All indicators point to an increase in the number of black people in both the middle and upper class, Maimane said. Between 1993 and 2008, the number of black South Africans in the middle class more than doubled but remained a relatively small portion of the total population. But the composition of the lower classes remains predominantly black, he said.
“In an urban environment where social interaction across racial, social and cultural divides is more common, it is easy to forget that the vast majority of the unemployed, rural population is black,” he said.
In July, data from Stats SA put South Africa’s population at just over 54 million.
A year ago, StatsSA research found that the unemployment rate increased from 22 percent to 25 percent over the past 20 years.
Under an expanded definition of unemployment, however, the number of unemployed rose by 3.5 million between 1994 and 2014, with the unemployment rate at 35 percent.
The expanded definition includes those who are unemployed and who are available to work, whether or not they have taken active steps to find employment.
“Possibly of most concern is the increase in the unemployment rate for black Africans with tertiary education. It more than doubled, from 8 percent to 19 percent,” Stats SA said.
Overcoming the legacy of racial economic exclusion requires more than just broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) policies that enrich a small group of individuals.
Black economic empowerment only benefits approximately 15 percent of the black population, according to Anthea Jeffery, head of policy research at the Institute of Race Relations.
“To accelerate redress you have to intensify economic growth. Broadening economic participation requires that we create an entrepreneurial culture that places small businesses at the forefront of job creation,” said Maimane.
Job creation is not the end, but the means to overcoming the injustices of the past and building a society in which reward is proportionate to effort, the DA said.
“The DA’s approach to redress focuses on the need to expand the number of job opportunities available to all South Africans while recognising the need to incentivise diversity and inclusivity,” Maimane said. “I hold the belief that the project of the rainbow nation has not failed, but we must work harder to look past the short handles of skin color and look at who we are.”
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