Despite significant progress in women’s suffrage, the gender wage gap and economic disparity persist in South Africa. The country remains committed to resolving this issue, serving as a model for neighboring nations grappling with women’s empowerment.
A 2016 study by Kollamparambil and Razak revealed that women in South Africa earn nearly 18% less than men for equivalent work, equating to about 80 cents per dollar that men earn on average. This unfortunate pattern is prevalent globally, with women often earning 20–30 cents less per dollar compared to men. Nevertheless, this gap has gradually reduced from the 40% disparity recorded in 1993.
In his speech on International Women’s Day, the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, urged South Africans to support the closing of the wage gap. The president has been known to be a strong supporter of women’s rights and specifically emphasized ensuring that women receive proper education.
South Africa has made strides in education, with more women in higher education than men. According to a 2018 study, South African universities have more women, with 58% of students in higher education being female. Similarly, almost 86% of women move on to pursue a secondary form of education after primary school while only 80% of men do, despite women currently being less likely to attend primary school in the first place.
However, the country has a high number of unemployed women — an issue that the government is currently trying to solve. In that same speech, the president urged his citizens to eradicate the idea that women are meant to be homebodies rather than an important part of the workforce which they have the potential to be.
The Importance of Eliminating the Gender Wage Gap
Making sure that people of all genders are paid fairly and equally is important to securing equality on all grounds within all countries. Closing the wage gap in South Africa is a big step in improving the rights of women as a whole and ensuring that women are able to provide for themselves, support their families and reach their full potential as part of the workforce.
As of 2022, only around 66% of women in South Africa are employed, making the country very progressive considering that the percentage of employed men stands at 70%. Although, despite the similarity between their employment rates, women are much more likely to work fewer hours with a lower wage.
Women also face violence and discrimination due to the wage gap in South Africa. The gap results in women lacking many of the resources that men do, making providing for themselves much more difficult. This lack of economic opportunities causes women who find themselves in abusive or harmful situations more hesitant or even unable to escape those situations.
What Is Being Done in South Africa?
South Africa is actively taking steps to increase the representation of women in leadership positions and provide a platform for advocating the closure of the wage gap. In parallel, the country is witnessing a rising chorus of women’s voices, particularly among journalists, who are vocally addressing the issue of the wage gap. Their voices are resonating, and the government is collaborating with them. Initiatives like The Presidential Employment Stimulus are underway to create numerous job opportunities for women nationwide.
The introduction of The Presidential Employment Stimulus as a program was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal was to create more jobs after the widespread unemployment which resulted from the lockdown. The program created almost a million jobs, most of which were in the education system.
The program achieved this by providing stimulus to households that had lost their primary income due to the pandemic. Additionally, it established various institutions that generated job opportunities, enabling these households to recover and explore new career paths. Notably, 62% of the beneficiaries were women.
Despite persistent challenges related to economic inequality and the gender wage gap in South Africa, the nation is actively working to address these issues. With a commitment to empowering women and promoting equal opportunities, South Africa’s progress could serve as an example for neighboring countries. Initiatives like The Presidential Employment Stimulus have contributed to creating job opportunities for women and increasing their representation in the labor force. The country’s efforts underscore the importance of closing the wage gap in achieving broader gender equality and economic empowerment.
– Allison Groves