History remembers the brave, if we don’t address women's issues now, then when?
South Africa continues to hold the crown for being the poster boy of inequality, according to a study by the University of Cape Town’s Liberty Institute of Strategic Marketing our middle class contracted by 55,73% (a decline from 6.1 million to 2.7 million individuals) between 2017-2020, this on the back of a growing ultra-poor populous (increased by 6.6 million individuals), youth unemployment continues to hit record highs & yet we still drag our feet when it comes to addressing the issues of the gender that make up the majority of the population.
The Employment Farce
Whilst there has been an overall increase in the number of women employed since 1995, the female share of employment still remains largely over-represented in part-time work and informal activities. According to Posel and Muller (2008), women are over-represented in part-time work, over 50% of all part-time wage employees are domestic workers. The increase in female labour force participation has also been a consequence of rising unemployment rather than empowerment (Casale 2004, Casel and Posel 2002, 2005). A large part of the increased labour force participation in the early 2000s was in subsistence agriculture and domestic work (Casale et al 2004; Posel and Casel 2001). It is important to note that merely creating employment opportunities for the unemployed isn’t enough but what type of employment is created also matters.
Women predominantly work in four sectors, domestic services (about 80% of waged workers in this sector are female), finance (about 44%), trade (about 50%) and services (about 47%), Men, on the other hand, are predominant in services, trade, finance, manufacturing and construction work. However, there is occupational segregation in these sectors, the majority of women in finance for example are clerks (bank tellers, customer information clerks) whereas the majority of men are service workers. Industry and occupation of employment are important players in explaining the gender wage gap, ultimately if women are excluded from occupations considered “male” occupations, this results in overcrowding in occupations considered female occupations, the overcrowding, in turn, drives wages down. Even though occupational segregation has been on the decline, it persists in the South African labour market and black women and coloured women overwhelmingly fill low-paying jobs.
Mind The Gap
The gender pay gap can be understood as the difference in wages between men and women for the same work or work of equal value. The pay gap currently sees women earning up to 35% less than men for doing the same job, this is a major stumbling block in achieving gender equality and overall economic growth. Whilst earning less for doing the same job women have to navigate supporting children, coping with domestic violence and accessing resources to improve their lives. To better put this into perspective, 48% of female-headed households support extended family members compared to 23% of male-headed households doing the same, so without his grandmother or aunt, the likelihood of Thabo growing up with enough opportunities to have an option to build a company over formal employment or even the opportunity of waiting out for his preferred job becomes significantly less if we fail to empower women.
Addressing gender inequality remains a critical lever for change. In light of continuing to be a practical solutions machine, we at The Finance Gym acknowledge the need to ensure the growth of women in our economy, primarily through financial inclusion and literacy. We believe that achieving our mission of increasing the household savings rate through improving financial literacy rates cannot be done without improving the financial fitness of women in our country. It is with great pleasure to announce that we will be curating a week in August dedicated to teaching women critical financial literacy skills.
Author: Sihle Hlatshwayo