JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's workplaces are still heavily racially skewed 20 years after the fall of apartheid, with only one fifth of top executive positions held by blacks, said a report published Wednesday.
"The majority of work places are still 'lilly white' at the top and often male over-represented, with a few pockets of black and women executives," Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant commented on the findings by a special commission in her ministry.
Overall, blacks represent around 75 percent of South Africa's economically active population, compared to just under 11 percent of whites.
Yet almost two-thirds of senior roles in Africa's second-largest economy were held by whites last year, according to the study, compared to 19.8 percent of black people.
South Africans of Indian descent held 8.4 percent of top jobs while those of mixed race, known locally as Coloureds, had 5.1 percent of positions.
Foreign nationals filled up the remaining 4.1 percent.
The disparity at the top of South Africa's corporate ladder exists despite employment equity legislation to address the legacy of racial exclusion in the labour market created by apartheid.
The ANC government, which has ruled South Africa since the first post-apartheid elections in 1994, has been criticised for not doing enough to address poverty.
Meantime in a separate report, the statistics office pointed to "large disparities" in average earnings between racial groups in a country rated one of the most unequal societies in the world.
Last year, median "earnings of the white population group increased to 10,500 rand ($1,000, 730 euros), while among the coloured (mixed race) workers there was a decline."
"At 2,600 rand in 2013, the earnings of black Africans amounted to barely 25 percent of white earnings," said the statistics office.
The labour market figures come just a month ahead of elections that promise to be the toughest ever faced by the ruling African National Congress.
A key issue is the job market: out of a working age population of 35 million, only around 15 million South Africans are actually employed.
The statistics office report also published Wednesday found that just 400,000 formal jobs were created in the five years up to 2013.
"Employment in the formal sector increased from 10.1 million in 2008 to 10.5 million in 2013," Statistics South Africa said in a statement.
Unemployment rose to 24.7 percent last year, up from 22.5 percent five years earlier, as the total number of jobless increased by half a million to 4.9 million.
As part of its election campaign, the ANC has promised to create six million job opportunities in the next five years if it is re-elected, despite the country's annual growth struggling to move beyond 3.5 percent over the past four years.
In 2012, South Africa's unemployment rate, at 24.7 percent, was highest among emerging market economies, according to the statistics bureau.
South Africa last week lost its position as Africa's largest economy to Nigeria after Abuja announced a long-overdue re-basing of the country's gross domestic product.