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South Africa

Education and Employment

The Bantu Education Act (No. 47) of 1953 helped pave the way for labor strife in the 1980s and the 1990s by institutionalizing a plan to restrict black workers to low-paid jobs through deliberately inferior education (see Education, ch. 2). During the 1960s and 1970s, per capita spending on white pupils was about ten times greater than educational spending on black pupils. By the early 1990s, the gap had been reduced by half, but in general, standards for teacher qualifications and facilities in black schools continued to be inferior to those in white schools.

The economic costs of implementing and enforcing apartheid sky-rocketed in the 1980s. Black poverty deprived South African businesses and manufacturers of a sizable domestic market. Even more ominous for the future, it became clear that South Africa lacked the necessary skilled personnel to maintain growth in its manufacturing enterprises, and millions of South African workers were unqualified for anything but the lowest-paid jobs.

South Africa's Education Foundation, a respected private research organization, estimated in 1991 that unemployment among unskilled and uneducated workers would increase during the 1990s, and that at least 500,000 skilled jobs and managerial positions were likely to remain unfilled, unless foreign workers were hired to fill them. The government's National Manpower Commission confirmed these bleak estimates in 1992, adding to the political pressure to end apartheid, especially in education.

The interlinked challenges of economic recovery and educational reorganization presented the new government with an intractable dilemma in 1994. Educational reform would require significant increased spending in an expanding economy, but, at the same time, economic growth would require a more highly skilled work force and educational reforms. The government approach to these challenges was deliberate and careful, and attempted with foreign donor assistance to convince those who were uneducated and unemployed that some of the benefits of ending apartheid would be seen during their lifetime. Officials sought international assistance in providing on-the-job training for workers in many industries and in speeding the pace of reforms, but by late 1995, only a few new programs were being implemented.

Women constituted only about 36 percent of the labor force in the formal economy in the mid-1990s, according to official estimates. Women of all races generally held lower-paid jobs than men, and they were paid less in comparable jobs. During the apartheid era, white women most often worked in service industries and clerical positions; a few white women held supervisory jobs or government offices. Black women dominated the large domestic work force; some worked in clerical positions or in temporary jobs, often in agriculture. Women managed most agricultural production in the former homelands and rural areas where men frequently left home to work in cities or in the mines.

Foreign workers have been an important segment of the industrial work force. In 1994 the government estimated that between 1 million and 1.2 million workers from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Swaziland were legally employed in South Africa--most on temporary contracts in the mines or urban industries. In addition, as many as 2 million foreign workers were believed to be self-employed or working illegally in South Africa in 1995, according to minister of home affairs Gatsha Buthelezi. Foreign workers were sometimes subject to immediate layoffs or discriminatory treatment at the hands of management or fellow employees, and in 1996, they faced the threat of new restrictions on their being hired.

Extractive Industries

South Africa's modern history has often been dated from the first commercial mining of diamonds and gold in the 1870s and the 1880s, when the region became a magnet for European investment. Mining in the region predated European arrivals by several centuries, however, as the new government recalled in its minerals policy statements in 1994 and 1995. Iron mining and smelting sites in the northeast were used as much as 1,700 years ago; copper was mined south of the Limpopo River more than 1,000 years ago; and historians describe early mining activities in the Witwatersrand (literally, "Ridge of White Waters" in Afrikaans, commonly shortened to Rand) area, which attracted miners from elsewhere in Africa as early as the thirteenth century.

Soon after the European rush for gold and diamonds in the late nineteenth century, mining operations expanded to include more than two dozen other minerals. By the mid-twentieth century, South Africa was the world's largest producer or second largest producer of gold, diamonds, platinum, chromium, manganese, and vanadium; and it ranked high among producers of coal, iron ore, uranium, copper, silver, fluorspar, asbestos, and limestone (see table 12, Appendix).

Clusters of minerals occur in five major mineral complexes--the Bushveld, Transvaal, Witwatersrand, Northern Cape, and Western Cape complexes (see fig. 15). Whereas most mines were originally funded and managed from European centers, by the 1970s most were managed by South Africa's large diversified corporations, which controlled assets around the world.

Despite its importance in export revenues, the mining industry contributes only about 9.6 percent of GDP in the mid-1990s, down from an average of nearly 15 percent during the 1980s. The mining sector had been gradually surpassed by manufacturing and financial services both in terms of national output and labor force participation. The mines still account for a greater share of export revenues than any other single economic activity in the 1990s.

The mineowners' association, the South African Chamber of Mines, was formed in 1889 to represent the industry in dealings with the government. In the 1990s, the Chamber of Mines includes six major mining finance houses, with thirty-six gold mines, twenty-two coal mines, and sixteen diamond, platinum, antimony, asbestos, manganese, lead, and copper mines. Together they account for 85 percent of South Africa's mineral output. The Chamber of Mines negotiates labor concerns on behalf of mineowners, administers training programs for mineworkers, trains mineworkers in rescue and safety procedures, oversees pension and benefit funds, coordinates research programs, and refines and processes some minerals before sale.

Data as of May 1996

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