Toward Dynamic and Intersectional Affirmative Action Policies: Bee and Graduate Unemployment in South Africa
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Since its adoption in 2011, the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy in South Africa has divided opinion among researchers regarding its effectiveness as an affirmative action geared toward redressing the legacy of labor market segregation in the country. Despite substantial research that shows growing incidences of degreed unemployment, and the continued salience of structural factors such as race, gender, and age in shaping labor market outcomes, the country recently adopted a new fee-free higher education policy as strategy to achieve socio-economic redress. This paper empirically evaluates the validity of the recent policy’s conviction in the capacity of public education to redress unequal opportunity in the labor market. I implement an interrupted time series design on the Post-Apartheid Labor Market Series data to estimate the differential effect of BEE on the employment status of bachelor’s degree holders. Using predicted probabilities, I show that, the intersection of structural factors such as race, age and gender continue to attenuate the marginal effects of bachelor’s degree on either side of the BEE’s existence. Such a finding points to the ineffectiveness of the current BEE policy in ameliorating the structural barriers existing in South Africa’s labor market and provides evidence of the limits of tertiary education in offsetting the role of structural constrains in the labor market.