The South African gender pay gap is estimated, on average, to be between 15%-17%. This implies that a South African woman would need to work two months more than a man to earn the equivalent salary that he would earn in a year.
If the gap persists, a South African woman would never catch up with her male colleague. Ultimately she loses out on pension and other benefits that are coupled to her basic salary. Other than the financial losses that she incurs, the emotional fairness of the pay gap is quite difficult to accept. Employers are benefiting unduly from a historic system of undervaluing women’s skills and workplace contributions.
On average, South African services industries are better attuned to the needs of women. These sectors have a high percentage of women employees. Mining and other heavy industries lag behind in terms of gender pay equity. Salaries in government are, on average, better for both men and women than similar comparable jobs in the private sector.
How does South Africa compare with other countries? Data from the International Labour Organisation on global wage gaps show they range from between 4% and 36% or more. Among the developed countries, the US has the widest gap. South Africa is in the same region as Vietnam, Denmark, Spain and Italy.
The reasons for the gender pay gap are: Women are often seen to be less loyal to the company and more likely to exit the workplace in their childbearing years. Nurturing and being supportive, are not regarded as having a high economic value. Employers may therefore perceive the long-term value that a woman would add to an organisation as lower than that of a man who does not have care obligations outside the workplace.
Some would argue that it would be impossible to eradicate gender pay differences completely. Issues such as the perceived number of hours that women work and the value that is placed on their labour, like nurturing and being supportive, are not regarded as having a high economic value.
Men are therefore paid more than a woman to ensure that the company gets a greater return on the investment made in the development of an individual.
Professor Anita Bosch, University of Johannesburg
Re-worked and republished by Afropolitan Explosiv Media, courtesy of The Conversation