Women Earn Less Than Men in South Africa

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Pay Discrimination Still Happens

Direct discrimination has largely been eliminated by unambiguous constitutional and employment legislation. It’s against the law to discriminate on grounds of gender.

Yet, there are insufficient checks, resources and sanctions in place to enforce these provisions. Add to that indirect discrimination. This stems from the different value placed by society on jobs or tasks mainly carried out by women and those mainly carried out by men. I

How does indirect discrimination show up?

Indirect discrimination shows up mainly in two forms.

  • Lower levels of pay in sectors which mainly employ women. Women traditionally work in welfare, such as care (nurses, social workers, etc.). Such jobs are less well paid than work, say, in production of goods and financial services. There is no justification for this discrimination, as it is not based on the difficulty of the work or its level of responsibility. This means that female job seekers should (re)consider the sector of their choice very well.
  • Jobs in sectors where both men and women do the same kind of work are valued differently. Here, too, there is no objective reason for the difference in pay. A classic example is the difference between the (female) receptionist and the (male) doorkeeper. If women do work of equal value to that of men and still receive lower pay, the employer simply needs to put a value on the chair and not on the person sitting on it: equal pay for work of equal value!
Low and high work values

In general it may be said that too low a value is placed on characteristics associated with women, e.g. social skills, physical and emotional care, concentration. At the same time the characteristics associated with traditionally male jobs (leadership, technical insight, heavy physical work) are over-valued. These very often subconscious valuations have to be overcome by making people aware of them – and then act differently.

Only a consistent and broad awareness-raising effort by many (men included!) will contribute to the closing of the gender pay gap.

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Find out if you are getting the wage you deserve by taking our Salary Check or reading our Role & Pay.


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