The Empowerment of Women in Mining in South Africa Due to Affirmative Action and Employment Equity

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1129 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2019

Words: 1129|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2019

With the policies initiation and definition follows some problematic discussions concerning; power dynamics, representation, categorising, homogenising and empowering, and the aim of equality.

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Generally, one can ask how far the Affirmative Action and the Employment Equity policy reaches in the process of possible or actual socio/economic and political change and development, my interest lies more specifically on the South African labor market and the South African women in the mining industry. Statistical data on the labor market in general and tendencies towards the fulfillment of gender equality objectives can be found in the October House Hold Survey. Table 2 shows that the weakest group in the labor market in South Africa in 1995 is African women, with only 23% employed. Indian women 32% and Colored women 40% follow them. The strongest group among the group of women is the white women. What the table also tells us is that men have a much higher employment rate in all groups, which can be explained in the patriarchal society structure of South Africa. Table 3 reveals that, within each population group, a smaller proportion of women than men in the age group 15 to 65 years are employed and a larger proportion of African and Indian women are not economically active. Among women, the proportion of employed is highest among White women, at 54%, and lowest among African women, at 36%. The rate for colored women, at 45%, is higher than that for Indian, at 39%. 50% of all Indian women between 15 and 65 are not economically active in the formal market, and almost half (47%) of all African women too. In 2001 the population of working age (15-65 years old) constituted 61% of the population, 35% of the population was younger than 15 years. Africans constituted 78% of the population, Coloreds 9%, Indians 3% and Whites 10%.

Data shows that, among women, the percentage employed in 2001 was higher than the percentage employed in 1995 across all population groups. The increase between the two years 1995 and 2001 was most obvious for African women and for women with no formal educational qualifications. Previous research from the years 2001-2002, shows that the South African labor market is gender and ethnically segregated, designated groups, especially women and Africans, are over represented in the informal sector, out of reach for Affirmative Action and Employment Equity policies. According to Hughes and Zetterqvist (2002) there is no apparent trend of changes in the workforce that implies that this situation is improving. South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world; the prevalence of unemployment may have effects on the outcome of the implementation of the Employment Equity Act. The rate of change of the concentration and segregation is restricted by the time it takes for new workers to be trained and hired.

Unfortunately, there are no published exact statistics on specific employment in the mining industry in South Africa as a whole, but according to the Kornegay (2001), the proportion of women in senior management position (director and above) has improved significantly since 1994. However, the mining industry still fall short of the targets of 30% of new women recruits. A few departments and provinces have made considerable progress in gender representation; others have made little or no progress. Some problematic results by the implementation of Affirmative Action is revealed. This is expressed as “distorted ways of applying affirmative action.... for instance, that within some National Departments and Provincial Administration there is a tendency to recruit one group of women at the expense of others” (The White Paper on Affirmative Action, Notice 564 of 1998). This is explained by the requirement to affirm women, and employers use it to affirm white women and ignoring the others (African, colored and Indian women) within this group. It has also occurred that one group has been affirmed before the broader group. For example, ‘black people’ have been promoted while the others have been ignored. The interpretation of what a category includes has shown to be problematic.

Another result of the legislative requirements is that individuals are facing hostility on the job. Those members of target groups are “stigmatized as token appointees and seen to be unworthy of their jobs”. This has resulted in that people do not want to be associated with Affirmative Action and Employment Equity.

According to Dlamini (2016) after twenty years after democracy women make up almost plus-minus 11% of the operational mining workforce in South Africa. Before 1994, underground work was just for males. There are possible side effects of the mining industry’s apparent new-found enthusiasm for female employees by using Affirmative Action and Employment Equity. The urgency with which the industry seeks to recruit female employees is ultimately driven by the threat of their losing mining licenses if they do not ‘transform’. Female employees on mines were to be found in human resources, finance or laboratory work above ground. Even after the coming into being of the Employment Equity Act of 1999, mining was slow to transform. Relying on a caveat in section 6 of the Employment Equity Act, mining management argued that females were unable to meet the ‘inherent requirements’ of much of the underground work. As female employment levels stayed resolutely low, the government increasingly rejected these arguments and insisted on higher levels of female employment, setting targets to rectify the gender imbalances in the industry. This was done in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002 and the Broad-based Socio-Economic Charter for the South African Mining Industry of 2004. The penalty for not meeting these targets ended in the non-renewal of mining licenses.

Under pressure to transform, mines have aggressively recruited female employees. Even where a suitable male candidate exists, employers would be entitled to prefer a female applicant for a job, indeed they would end up not complying with legislation if they did not. In the words of a human resource practitioner at Kumba Iron Ore, female miners are like gold.

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Still there is a gap in the research, does Affirmative Action and Employment Equity really empower women in mining in South Africa? Little research has been done about women empowerment in the mining industry recently, regarding Affirmative Action and Employment Equity, especially in South Africa and it seems necessary to investigate from a phenomenological framework how Affirmative Action and Employment Equity influences women in mining in South Africa and to determine how and if it empower them. An example of one of the few studies that has been done on this topic is and is not directly the same: ‘The implementation of Employment Equity and Affirmative Action as a tool of balancing the injustices of the past in the mining industry’ and ‘Does Affirmative Action Empower Black South African women?’

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The Empowerment of Women in Mining in South Africa Due to Affirmative Action and Employment Equity. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
“The Empowerment of Women in Mining in South Africa Due to Affirmative Action and Employment Equity.” GradesFixer, 13 Sept. 2019,
The Empowerment of Women in Mining in South Africa Due to Affirmative Action and Employment Equity. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 May 2024].
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