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The implications of the gender pay gap in South Africa

This article first appeared in the Star Workplace on 2 December 2015 under the title “Gender pay gap has major implications”

IN SOUTH Africa the gender pay gap is estimated to be between 15 and 17 percent, according to the SA Board for People Practices Women` s Report 2015.

This means that for every one rand a man earns, a woman only earns about 85c.

Or put another way, South African women stopped earning at the end of October and work November and December for free.

This has long-term implications. Women lose out on pension and other benefits that are related to basic salary.

It seems absurd that women are being paid less than men in South Africa for the same work. We have advanced labour practices but we still have gender pay issues.

Recently there was a call in Britain for companies that have more than 250 staff members to publicly report their own gender pay gap. Britain joins a handful of other countries which have done this. I believe South African companies should do the same.

If pay issues became more transparent, they could be more actively addressed than in the clandestine way they are currently handled. A pay gap audit will offer a way forward with quantifiable facts. In South Africa, the Employment Equity Act sets out non-discrimination legislation, the principle of equal pay for equal value. So men, women, different race groups and hose with disabilities should not be earning differently for the same work.

This, however, exists more in theory than in practice.

There are many reasons for this pay gap.

There is a historic bias to pay men more and undervaluing women` s skills and workplace contributions.

Men are four times more likely to ask for a raise than women are, and when women actually do ask, they ask for 30 percent less.

Women downplay their achievements and attempt to communicate in as non-threatening a way as possible which is not conducive to getting higher pay.

It has been found that around 66 percent of women tend to accept a wage offer without negotiating any aspect of it.

Other issues include the implications of child bearing such as career breaks as well as less investment in women` s training and development.

The issue of the motherhood penalty and fatherhood bonus fuels pay differences. When women take a career break due to child responsibilities it affects their pay, but men who become fathers are seen as breadwinners and having to support a family and consequently they are paid more.

The subject choices that girls make at school also have implications for their future pay.

Maths and science skills are scarce and therefore attract higher pay Girls tend to regard themselves as incompetent at these subjects.

Sharing information on a salary slip is taboo so it is difficult for women to compare their salaries with their counterparts.