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Education and Labour Market Inequalities in South Africa

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Part of the Diversity and Inclusion Research book series (DIRE)

Abstract

Framed within notions of social justice, inequality of opportunity and Bourdieu’s forms of capital, this chapter examines the gaps in educational and labour market outcomes in South Africa and how they have changed over time. With social policies aimed at redressing inequalities introduced from 1994, we track the changes in school mathematics achievements from 2003 to 2015; university graduation rates for science, engineering and health related (SET) fields from 2008 to 2017 and demographic shifts of workers in high-skill occupations from 2008 to 2018.

Multiple data sources were used for the analysis including the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the Higher Education Management Information System and the Quarterly Labour Force Survey. The analysis showed that while overall school and university inequalities are decreasing, alongside improved mathematical achievements and graduation rates, access to various forms of capital continues as a strong determinant for educational success over time. There have been tangible increases in diversity by race and gender absorption of technicians and professionals, but White males continue to dominate managerial positions, resulting in narrow upward shifts for Africans and women. Despite notable improvement in educational successes, African women remain the most under-represented group at the higher occupational levels, especially in the private sector.

To achieve educational and labour market outcomes that are more just we propose an expanded framework which includes the economic and resource capital needed to address structural factors, as well as supporting the development of cultural and social capital for those from historically disadvantaged backgrounds so that they are better able to connect to institutions and workplaces. Educational institutions must be strengthened and inter-institutional variances decreased. The labour must be better monitored and sanctions applied for the non-achievement of equity targets. At the same time cultural changes must prevail with White—and male—privilege being acknowledged.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In 2015, the categorisation was 49% chronic poor, 13% transient poor, 14% vulnerable, 20% middle class and 4% elite.

  2. 2.

    This chapter will use the term “population groups”.

  3. 3.

    Africans were officially called “Bantu” by the apartheid regime.

  4. 4.

    In 1960 the South African population of 16 million was categorised into the following population group categories: 68.3% African, 19.3% White, 9.4% Coloured and 3% Indian. In 2019, the 58.7 million people were categorised as 80.7% African, 7.9% White, 8.8% Coloured and 2.6% Indian (Statistics South Africa, 2019).

  5. 5.

    Other post-1994 labour market policies include the Labour Relations Act, No. 66 of 1995, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, No. 75 of 1997 and the Employment Equity Act, No. 55 of 1998.

  6. 6.

    BEE Act was amended to Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act (BBBEE) Act in 2007, and 2015.

  7. 7.

    The most recent publicly available data.

  8. 8.

    The USA refers to these categories as STEM fields.

  9. 9.

    This data comes from the submission by companies on the representation and remunerations of their workforce by gender and race.

  10. 10.

    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_universities_in_South_Africa for list and category of universities.

  11. 11.

    Using the enrolment and completion numbers we computed graduation rates.

  12. 12.

    www.workinfo.org/index.php/articles/item/2022-national-and-regional-economically-active-population-qlfs-q4-2019

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Reddy, V., Mncwango, B. (2021). Education and Labour Market Inequalities in South Africa. In: Pearson Jr., W., Reddy, V. (eds) Social Justice and Education in the 21st Century. Diversity and Inclusion Research. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-65417-7_3

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