According to a new study the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for economic policy reforms to address deep socio-economic inequalities such as gender-based pay gaps.
The study by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) says South African women still earn up to 35 percent less than men for doing the same work.
It says rules making it mandatory to disclose gender-based differences in wages to employees, the government and the public could compel employers to remunerate their workers fairly and equally.
“Despite South Africa’s significant strides in preventing workplace discrimination, the gender pay gap has remained stubbornly stagnant for over two decades, and is well above the global average pay gap of 20 percent reported by the ILO ( International Labour Organization),” said the study’s lead author Anita Bosch.
Bosch and USB research fellow Shimon Barit analysed global trends on the enforcement of mandatory transparent pay reporting in order to give direction to strengthening South Africa’s mechanisms for achieving gender economic equality.
In the study, they recommend incorporating more detailed, gender pay-related information to companies’ existing required reporting on employment and remuneration, mandatory pay audits, making pay information available to unions and employees, as well as penalties for non-compliance.
While collective bargaining and the introduction of the national minimum wage have seen the gap narrowing for women in lower-earning jobs, Bosch said for women in middle and upper pay level jobs, the gap had actually widened and continued to do so.
The problem is greater in the private sector where pay is market-driven, whereas public sector wages are largely standardised, she added.
“Enforcing South African legislation and governance codes on equal pay and transparent reporting could strengthen the existing collective bargaining framework and provide the impetus to demonstrate that South Africa sees gender equality as an achievable reality, not an improbable ideology,” Bosch said.
She said the importance of equal pay for equal work was highlighted by the fact that more than a third of South African households were headed by women.
Female-headed households are approximately 40 percent poorer than those headed by men and almost half of female-headed households support extended family, compared to just over 20 percent of male-headed households.
“Since women support greater numbers of children and extended family members and are more likely to be employed in lower-paying occupations, their lack of pay equality has arguably a greater negative impact on the socio-economic wellbeing of families and communities,” said Bosch.
“This is all the more reason to amend and enforce policies on transparent pay reporting, with the end goal of closing the gender pay gap.”