Women in South Africa earn less than men

5 August 2015

Subject choices made at school will make a huge difference to a woman’s pay years after she has left school, according to a report released this month – Women’s Month.

The Women’s Report 2015: Equal Pay for Equal Value, published by the South African Board for People’s Practices, says skills scarcity drives high pay. “Women who hold a general Bachelor’s degree in social sciences or humanities, as well as women with a business studies major, except accounting, are more likely to earn lower incomes than those who hold Bachelor’s degrees in sciences or accounting,” it says.

The report, a collection of research papers, asks that if women contribute equally, why should they not earn equally? It finds that women in South Africa are, on average, earning 15% less for doing the same jobs as men.

It concludes that the gender gap is still a reality in many South African companies. “There may be many reasons for this, both historical and structural,” reads the report.

“It is essential that senior leadership and in particular, the Human Resources executive identify inequity and devise a remedial plan of action to address this, in order to avoid future challenges, comply with legislation, and more importantly treat all their staff with the same dignity and respect, and recognise the full value of the women they employ through equal pay for equivalent work.”

Prof Anita Bosch of the University of Johannesburg’s management department, the author of the report, says that gender pay inequalities have been with us since the start of paid work for women, “and unfortunately, may not be all that easy to eradicate”.

The report finds that women’s skills are often undervalued, which leads to occupational segregation.

Skills such as caring, nurturing and organising, which are generally associated with women, do not carry a high monetary premium. Further differentiators in women’s pay are aspects such as the taking of career breaks and lower investment in women’s training and development.

“If you are not visible at work, or your CV has a gap that is non-work-related, your prospects of earning a high salary on return to work, irrespective of your skills, are not outstanding,” Bosch says.

The report notes that companies often take the view that they would rather invest in the development of workers who will provide a return on their investment, than invest in women who will eventually fall pregnant and resign.

“Furthermore, workplaces reward those who work disproportionately long hours.”

But Bosch stresses that merely stating women work shorter hours than men do, and therefore earn less than men, is not a valid justification for pay differences. The hourly rate that these women earn, she points out, is often also lower than that of men doing the same work for a full working day.

And when a person joins a new company, she says that since organisations want to limit salary negotiations, it is easier to ask for an old payslip and give the incumbent a 10% raise on the previous salary.

“When a woman changes jobs, she is often offered only a slightly higher salary than the one that she received at her previous employer. She therefore may remain at a low level of pay.”

Bosch concedes that experience, thanks to a history of inequality in the workplace, plays a role when it comes to candidates applying for the same job. However, experience is used a “cloak word” to hide why an employer chooses to pay more for a particular person.

Source: Business Tech