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Why men earn so much more money than women in South Africa

| Economic factors

A new report finds that women in South Africa are, on average, earning 15% less for doing the same jobs as men.

The South African Board for People Practices (SABPP) Women’s Report 2015: Equal Pay for Equal Value, found that pay inequalities have taken on a structural element, which is embedded in our way of thinking about work, efficiency, and profit.

The author of the report, Professor Anita Bosch from the University of Johannesburg’s Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, said 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 noted that since South Africa has embarked on legislated non-discrimination, titled: equal pay for equal value, at the end of 2014, the burden rests heavily on human resource management practitioners to uncover potential cases of pay inequity.

“The burden of proof is often so cumbersome that job incumbents resort to leaving the organisation, apply deviant practices to make up for the perceived shortfall, or psychologically disengage from their work,” Bosch said.

Why men are paid more than women

The report found 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 said.

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

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

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

She said that since organisations want to limit salary negotiations, it is easier to ask for an old payslip and give the new 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 conceded that experience, thanks to a history of inequality in the workplace, does play a role when it comes to to candidates applying for the same job.  However, she said that experience is used a ‘cloak word’ to hide why an employer chooses to pay more for a particular person.

“One also has to really be able to determine whether the level of experience that you are paying the person for, is truly what the job requires,” Bosch told Talk 702.

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