Workers are at war against inequality

The labour market contributes more than 70% to overall income inequality. This means there are paying jobs that keep people trapped in poverty and inequality.

The labour market is comprised of people divided by race and class yet equally entitled to pursue better economic opportunities. We are all entitled to pursue economic opportunity and to benefit from being employed. However, recruitment practices institute inequality and subject workers to unfair and unequal income outcomes when seeking work.

If race and class can denote privilege, will recruiters ever favour applicants from a particular class or race?

International studies show that recruiters are as susceptible as employers to prejudice and in bending the law when there’s little fear of consequences.

In a country with high unemployment, such as in South Africa, recruiters don’t have to work hard to attract talent.  Perhaps this, along with the immediacy of social media, has diminished recruitment advertising standards.

If the people initiating recruitment can’t be trusted to treat applicants fairly or even legally, how much of the recruitment process can be trusted?


What makes inequality tick if all our chances are equal?


We already know we don’t all have an equal shot at success, or a great job.

South Africa’s former race-based policies established a system where blacks had massively inferior and limited education and labour market opportunities. Has this changed for the masses?

Some whites argue BEE is a racist prevention policy while many black people say it’s not provided many privileges for them. Differently dissatisfied.

Like an invisible hand, an old guard appears to prevail over the labour market, filtering job seekers into colour piles ranked according to compensation expectations and pay slips.

Divided Reality

The deeply rooted system of inequality carefully constructed during apartheid, is not being demolished in our bedevilled democracy.

Black labour remaining cheapened, curtailed and as at Marikana, slaughtered on command; is divided and separated just as profiteers require.

Employers thrive amidst labour divisions brilliant for business.

Perhaps we can debate a society lacking egalitarian values thus preventing an equally magnanimous culture?

If black and white labour could chisel a seamless space of equality, where there is no superior nor submissive, perhaps an understanding of what had been unconditionally forgiven can be forged.

Differences and despair divide us along colour and class seams.

Black people might believe ‘whites got off easy’ and in so doing, entrench history’s divisions, not push towards change. White people may have been groomed to be defensive and as such, naturally hostile to change as it manifests as a threat.

Unlike black people, whites raised in an apartheid mentality didn’t have to fight for economic freedom, they were honed to protect it. Apartheid created a perception of a constantly looming threat in the minds of white South Africans.

As a white child, if I received bad school marks, I recall being told ‘if you don’t work harder, one day a black will be your boss.’ Strangely, I can’t remember if this was said at home, at school or both, just that it was said and that these statements start to make you feel something, from fear to superiority.

At some point the realisation hits you, the threat of having a black boss means you haven’t made it, you’re such a loser your life deteriorated to the level of a black person!

Perhaps racist ideology is organised as a mountain one must climb. You scale new heights as each level reached offers comfort and status.

Can a black person absorb and allow racist ideology to be perpetuated on other blacks if the racism offers them similar comfort and status?

Can a woman working as a recruiter continue the legacy of sexism against other women by price-fixing her pay unfairly low when an employer was willing to pay more? If she saves her employer money, does playing sexism forward make her feel good?

Part 2:

Paid according to Race or Gender

Please help us take action

Advocate for a fair labour market and economy accessible to everyone.

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If your job pays too little to build financial security and prevents you from looking around for better opportunities, you’re in a poverty trap. Improve your negotiation skills for your next interview.

Research reveals that many working families are unable to work themselves out of poverty.

While finding employment is generally regarded as the primary means of escaping poverty, the reality is a set of circumstances where a significant proportion of working families are unable to ‘work themselves out’ of poverty.  

The extent of income sharing in South Africa, coupled with a proliferation of low‐wage work, may leave even those who find employment unable to escape poverty at the household level. 

Lack of comprehensive cover for the working population

While South African employees are entitled to basic leave and overtime pay, they are not required by law to receive health insurance or retirement benefits.

In fact, in 2015 only 47% of the employed said that their employer contributed to a pension scheme on their behalf while just 30% were entitled to health insurance (which is known as‘medical aid’ in South Africa) (Stats SA, 2015b).

Workers are, however, protected under the contributory Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and may claim benefits during absence from the workplace if they have contributed for a sufficient period of time.

However, these benefits do not amount to a full monthly salary and may only be claimed for up to 8 months(DoL, 2014).   

Affirmative action policies have been implemented in an attempt to confront historical disadvantage, and to provide Black people with economic opportunities to control and manage South African businesses. Despite this, previously disadvantaged individuals remain severely underrepresented in the top tiers of management. (Jain et al., 2012)

Lilenstein et al


Lilenstein, K., Woolard, I., Leibbrandt, M. (2016). In-Work Poverty in South Africa: The Impact of Income Sharing in the Presence of High Unemployment. A Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit Working Paper Number 193. Cape Town: SALDRU, University of Cape Town

Global Forum on Competition ‘DOES COMPETITION CREATE OR KILL JOBS’ Contribution from the United States, 20-Oct-2015

Wage determination in perfectly competitive labour markets


leonie hall

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