Black Economic Empowerment: A Review of the Literature

Francis, David
Valodia, Imraan
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South Africa has the highest income inequality in the world. A recent report by the World Bank found the Gini coefficient of income to be 0.66, the highest of all 149 countries for which the World Bank has reliable data. In the workplace, this is reflected in vast inequalities in salaries and wages between high and low earners, but importantly between different race and gender groups. Despite a plethora of legislation aimed at addressing inequality in the workplace, women and black workers in South Africa continue to be paid less than men and white employees, even when doing the same work (the pay gap), and are more likely to work in precarious, low-paid jobs (occupational segregation). These factors are driven by differences in the characteristics of workers, and by structural discrimination in the economy. Conceptually, we can decompose structural discrimination into two forms – that which discriminates against people who do the same job, based on race and gender (the pay gap) and that which discriminates indirectly by occupational segregation – black people and women are concentrated in low-paying occupations. In this paper, we review the literature on occupational segregation and the gender and race pay gaps in post-Apartheid South Africa. We examine the various policy interventions that have attempted to address this enduring problem. In particular, we ask whether broad-based black economic empowerment – while not explicitly a labour market intervention – has had any positive impact on reducing labour market inequalities.