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The authority on gender empowerment in business for nearly 20 years.

Are South African workplaces more equal now than before?

Written by Staff Writer

June 26, 2023

 By Jessie Taylor


Equal pay: Working towards inclusive workplaces

South Africa’s Constitution is one of the most progressive in the world. Not only does it map out the rights each citizen is entitled to, but it also promotes all forms of equality. But yet, the country still grapples with gender equality. 

As South Africa, and the world, re-examines how women are paid for their work, there still remains much work to be done in promoting equal pay for equal work. However, more women are entering the workforce, and government policies are changing to embrace workplace equality.


Spot the difference

South Africa, like much of the world, still sees women earning lower salaries than men for the same work. 

On average, South African women earned R72.44 to every R100.00 earned by men in 2021. This difference is exacerbated once women have children, with mothers more likely to experience lower increases than fathers. This is particularly problematic in South Africa, where around 40% of women are single parents.

The labour market is on the whole less favourable to women than men. Women still tend to be primarily employed in domestic or agricultural occupations.

Men are more likely to be in paid employment than women regardless of race, while women are more likely than men to be doing unpaid work. There is a higher unemployment rate among women (37%) compared to men (32%) in South Africa. Black African women are the most likely to face unemployment.

Women account for around 43% of the workforce, despite making up more than half of the country’s population. And the pay gap doesn’t only exist in terms of salaries. Men are also more likely to be in positions in which they are entitled to sick leave, and the share of men who are entitled to paternity leave (89%) is higher than the share of women who were entitled to maternity leave (77%). Added to this, they are more likely to receive retirement benefits.

But while there remains much work to be done, the government and civil society organisations have been working to level the playing field for women in the workplace.


Creating change

South Africa has steadily improved access to education over the years, equipping more girls with the skills and knowledge needed to earn higher incomes. The country boasts a nearly full enrolment rate for learners aged seven to 15, at 98.6% for girls and 98.3% among boys. This is largely due to the government’s efforts to introduce policies encouraging education, such as no fees schools and the creation of the school nutrition programme.

Women are also slowly taking up more roles in workplace environments and over the last two decades, female labour-force participation has increased from 38% to 47%.

The South African government has been working to promote gender equality in the workplace, families and educational institutions. To this end, a dedicated ministry has been established to focus on uplifting women and legislation is being strengthened to improve women’s equality. In addition, government procurement processes have been adjusted to support women entrepreneurs, creating more opportunities for women-run businesses.

In addition, welfare support has been made available to assist women and families. Women make up 97% of caregivers who qualify for the Child Support Grant and this grant helps to relieve some of the burden women face when devoting twice as much time to household work as men. The Child Support Grant, designed to improve the well-being of children, has had positive impacts on female labour force participation covering the women’s fixed costs of finding employment.

Among those organisations fighting for women’s rights is the Commission for Gender Equality. This organisation is working to educate companies on legislation around gender equality and encourage them to introduce gender equality programmes and targets. This organisation is also lobbying for a National Policy Framework on Gender Equality to create accountability in promoting gender equality.

Women are often marginalised in local politics and excluded from decision-making processes, yet their economic participation is essential for economic growth and sustainable development. Women’s participation in integrated development planning is not smooth. To achieve this, governments must focus on entrepreneurship and job creation. The inclusion of women is at the heart of our constitutional imperative for equality and non-discrimination.


Read the 22nd edition of Top Empowerment:


https://cge.org.za | https://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za | https://www.getsmarter.com/ | https://www.news24.com | https://www.oecd.org/southafrica | https://www.statssa.gov.za | https://www.usb.ac.za

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