Labour market still favours men over women

Gender parity remains elusive for women in the workplace.

Equal opportunity and treatment in the labour market are at the core of decent work. Unfortunately, women in South Africa and around the world still face additional challenges that hinder them from accessing employment. And once they are in employment, appointments to decision-making positions and jobs in certain sectors, or of certain characteristics, remain elusive.

According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey of the second quarter of 2021, the labour market is more favourable to men than it is to women. Men are more likely to be in paid employment than women regardless of race, while women are more likely than men to be doing unpaid work.

The proportion of men in employment is higher than that of women, more men than women are participating in the labour market, and the unemployment rate among men is lower than among women.

The rate of unemployment among women was 36.8 percent in the second quarter of 2021 compared to 32.4 percent among men according to the official definition of unemployment. The unemployment rate among black African women was 41 percent during this period compared to 8.2 percent among white women, 22.4 percent among Indian/Asian women and 29.9 percent among coloured women.

According to the expanded definition, the rate of unemployment among women, at 48.7 percent, was 8.1 percentage points higher than among their male counterparts.

Women accounted for 43.4 percent of total employment in the second quarter of 2021. Of those in managerial positions, 66.9 percent were men compared to 33.1 percent of women. Overall, close to a third of all people who had jobs in the second quarter of 2021 were employed in elementary and domestic work occupations, with women dominating the domestic worker, clerical and technical occupations.

Basic standards and rights of employees in the workplace form an integral part of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) decent work agenda, which involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organise and participate in the decisions that affect their lives, and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.

According to the survey, approximately three quarters of employees were entitled to paid sick leave. However, the proportion was higher among men than among women.

About eight in every 10 employees were entitled to maternity or paternity leave during this period. The share of men who were entitled to paternity leave (89 percent) was higher than the share of women who were entitled to maternity leave (76.8 percent).

Furthermore, men were more likely to have their employers contributing to their pension/retirement fund than women.
It is clear from the survey findings that much work still needs to be done for women to attain both social and economic gender parity.