Fourteen years into the country’s democracy, institutional racism still rages, the Commission for Employment Equity’s chairman Jimmy Manyi said on Tuesday.

“The only difference is that previously it was more overt, but now it has assumed sophisticated forms in day-to-day work practices,” Manyi said.

Handing over the annual 2007/2008 report to Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, Manyi said the “finite data” received from large employers showed the “gross under-representation” of Africans, Coloureds and people with disabilities in the top three levels of management and that whites dominated.

“Institutional racism continues to reign supreme,” he said. “The actual data we are getting from the companies is telling us that the people who are benefiting from recruitment and promotions are white,” he said.

The report showed that at the top management level, blacks increased by five percentage points from 23.8 per cent in 2003 to 28.8 per cent in 2007.  “This is the case despite their economically active population (EAP) being 87.9 per cent.

Africans and Coloureds were the most under-represented within the group, despite an increase of 3.9 percentage points from 14.9 per cent to 18.8 per cent. This was the case even though their representation was approximately one-quarter of their EAP (74.8 per cent).

Coloureds decreased by 0.1 percentage points from four per cent to 3.9%. This meant their representation was about a third of their EAP.

“One wonders how long we are going to have affirmative action for because we are clearly not making a dent in terms of where we should be going,” said Manyi.

Women in top management increased by 3.7 percentage points over the same period from 14.1 per cent to 17.8 per cent, approximately two-and-half times below their EAP of 45.8 per cent.  African women representation increased by 2.2 percentage points from 3.7 per cent to 5.9 per cent. Their representation is approximately six times below their EAP of 34.4 per cent. Coloured women representation increased by 0.1 percentage points from 0.9 per cent to 1 per cent.

Manyi said this was a “far cry” from their EAP, which stood at 5 per cent. White women, who were almost twice their EAP, increased from 8.8 per cent to 9.8 per cent. “Only white women seem to be benefiting disproportionately in terms of this legislation [which allows for affirmative action] and black women are really lagging behind,” he said.