SA gender pay gap 'around 17%'

Posted originally CAPE TIMES by Bryn Evans
JOHANNESBURG: Gender inequalities in the South African workplace are still continuing, seemingly without respite, with women needing to work two months more than a man to earn the equivalent salary.

This is according to Sean Jones, CEO of black empowered training institute, Artisan Training Institute (ATI).

“The South African gender pay gap is estimated, on average, to be between 15 to 17%.”

Jones said ATI is moving to tackle gender inequality in the workplace by pushing to train more woman artisans, thereby, broadening the potential talent pool in South Africa.

“One would think that women would not really want to train as electricians, plumbers, sheet metal workers or millwrights, but we are training an increasing number of women.”

He said about 30% of trainees at ATI were women. The problem is that the number of “trade tested” women artisans – those that move on to finish their courses – is far less than 30%. There are a number of reasons for the drop-off, including pregnancies and financial difficulties.

In 2013, 41% of ATI’s trade tested electrical trainees were women. This trend was sustained at 41% in 2014 and increased to 55% in 2015.

In the last three years, in fitting and turning up to 22% of trade tested graduates are women, welding is hovering between 2% and 15%, while the millwright discipline reflects a lower number with the highest at 6% in 2015.

When it comes to tractor technicians, ATI notes that 2% of graduates are women – a figure they believe will grow in time.

“Ultimately, what these statistics point to is the possibility that, in the future, we will see more women artisans out there in the employment field plying their trade.”

But Jones pointed out that, while more female artisans might be deployed in the workplace, “the pay gap” might remain an issue for the foreseeable future. Steps have been taken in South Africa to remedy this situation. The Employment Equity Act sets out the principle of equal pay for equal value. An Act is all good and well, but, at the end of the day, it is fundamentally up to human resource management practitioners to uncover potential cases of pay inequity and to address these.

Among the reasons for pay disparity is that employers frequently feel that women are often seen to be less loyal to the company and more likely to exit the workplace in their childbearing years.

Employers perceive the long-term value that a woman would add to an organisation as less than that of a man who generally does not have child care duties.

Men are paid more than women to safeguard the investment made in the development of an individual with regards to his career and so that employers can retain talent, and cut down on staff churn.

Women do have a tough time compared to their male counterparts. Not only do they experience discrimination when they enter traditionally segregated occupations such as the artisan trades, but they also have to contend with “women’s work” at home.

These issues are often overlooked by companies. Although these challenges are still being grappled with, even in first world economies, there is a need for further research in order to enable better corporate practices.

According to the latest reports, on average services industries are seemingly more in tune with the needs of women. These sectors reportedly have a high percentage of women employees – with pay between male and females often being more equal.

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.

● Evans is a former journalist who graduated from Rhodes University, Grahamstown, in 1983

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