Here's how long it will be before blacks seriously challenge whites for leadership in SA companies

The latest annual report of the Commission for Employment Equity (CEE), released in Pretoria this week, shows the slow but steady erosion of white dominance in all but the highest tier of corporate South Africa.

The continuation of these trends would see the number of African men in “senior management” roles surpass white women in 2023 and white men only in 2038. African women would surpass white women only in 2050.

This is City Press’ extrapolation from the CEE’s numbers for appointments, promotions and terminations into and out of the different occupational levels in 2017.

These predictions assume that the number of top, senior and professional jobs keep growing at 2017 rates and the different population groups experience the same proportion of appointments, promotions and terminations every year into the future. Although this is unlikely, it does show how transformative dynamics in the labour market were in 2017.

At the pace of transformation seen in 2017 “top management” roles will still be dominated by white men in the 2060s despite steadily falling from the current level of 55%. This layer of management comprises only 60 755 people – about two at each of the 27 163 different companies, departments and institutions that filed employment equity reports for the year. The reports cover 7.3 million formal-sector workers – the majority of formally employed people in the country.

At the level of professionally qualified workers, both African men and women already outnumber white men and women. If the trends seen in 2017 persist, white women professionals would outnumber white male professionals by about 2032. The high rate of transformation seen in this occupational level might have something to do with more than a quarter of the entire class of workers being in the public sector, according to the CEE report. Professionals working in small private practices would not show up in the figures because they do not file annual reports to the CEE.

At all levels the pace of change in demographics relies not only on who gets jobs, but also who loses jobs or retires. Although white men receive an outsized number of appointments and promotions, they are leaving the top tiers of the workforce at the highest rate, leading to a decline in their dominance. Unless there is a significant increase in the growth of jobs, transformation relies on the attrition of the senior white workforce.