Closing the gap of gender inequality in the SA labour market

A recent study by the National Business Initiative highlighted the persisting levels of gender inequality, not only in South Africa but around the world.
Image: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

Women’s Month has highlighted the role of women (past, present and future) in society and once again reinforced awareness around disparities in gender-based pay that still persists today. A recent study by the National Business Initiative (Gender Pay Gap Pilot Report 2021) highlighted the persisting levels of gender inequality, not only in South Africa but around the world.

The paper further stated that the negative impact of the Covid pandemic, from both an economic and societal point of view, was felt most by women. The recently published Q2 2021 Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for South Africa supports this view as the number of employed women fell by 10.4% between Q1 of 2020 and Q2 of 2021.

The equivalent figure for men was a 7.5% decrease. In the report published by the National Business Initiative (NBI), there is a table which details the definitions of the gender pay gap as well as the kinds of information that are typically reported in each country. The below is an extract of that table indicating a description of the Gender Pay Gap by country.

Country Description of the Gender Pay Gap
Australia The female average earnings are subtracted from the male average then expressed as a percentage which forms the pay gap (Kee, 2006).
Germany The gender pay gap is the difference in the average (mean/median) hourly gross wage of all men and women in a workplace (Maier, 2007).
Iceland The gender pay gap is calculated as the difference in the mean gross hourly wage between male and female workers (Plantenga,Remery, 2006).
Ireland The gender pay gap is calculated as the difference in the mean gross hourly wage of all men and women in a workplace (Plantenga, Remery, 2006).
New Zealand Statistics New Zealand calculates the pay gap as the difference between the mean hourly earnings of men and women in both full-time and part-time work (Pacheco et al., 2017).
Switzerland The gender pay gap is the difference in the logarithm gross hourly wage, which includes the 13th and 14th month salary, bonuses and gratifications of all men and women (Bonjour, Gerfin, 2000).
UK The gender pay gap is the difference in the average (mean / median) hourly wage of all men and women.

*Source: NBI – Gender Pay Gap Pilot Report 2021

Although each of these speak to a comparison of the remuneration of men and women, what is missing is ensuring that it is a ‘like-for-like’ comparison. A significant part missing from these descriptions is a statement ensuring that the pay of men and women within the same job or at the same job grade is being compared.

In the absence of this direct, ‘like-for-like’ comparison, issues outside of pay are being added to the mix e.g. the proportion of jobs at each occupational level that are occupied by men and women as well as gender unemployment rates (to name just two). Using the 21st Century remuneration database ( and calculating the weighted average gender-based wage gap in SA, comparing positions on a ‘like-for-like’ (same job grade) basis, men earn approximately 15% more than women at the same job grade. This indicates that despite the increased social awareness and discussion around the topic of gender-based pay inequality, it continues to persist in the South African economy and around the world.

Although there is not any legislation that states that two people must be paid exactly the same, it is important that the reasoning used for applying any wage differentiation is based on sound, defendable reasons rather than any kind of conscious or unconscious bias. Gender disparities are covered in the Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value legislation. A basic, internal remuneration audit that compares the pay levels of different groups within the same job, job grade or occupational level is a great starting point to identify whether such biases are potentially present within an organisation. In our experience most organisations in South Africa still have a gender gap at least at some occupational levels or specific jobs.

Calculating your organisations current position and working towards a target within a specified period is a practical way of ensuring that this concept is turned into a metric that can be tracked by the organisation. It is only through interrogating our current practices and consciously evaluating our decision-making processes that we can ensure that fairness is present in these processes. Hopefully this article has stimulated thought regarding a few practical ways in which organisations can strive towards equality within their remuneration practices. If enough organisations are able to close their own internal gap, it can only have a positive impact on the gap faced by the economy as a whole.

Bryden Morton is executive director, Chris Blair is CEO at 21st Century.


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More woke nonsense. Here’s the challenge: name one company that pays women less that are on the same rank and work the same hours as their male counterparts. Just one company.

Yes. Gender inequality. Racial inequality. Economic inequality. Social inequality. Bla bla bla. Cry cry cry.

Agreed and the woke brigade always focus on the “equality in numbers” argument because apparently, it “must be 50/50 in all positions”. However, they only pursue this argument with regard to high paying jobs like CEO’s, judges and cabinet ministers but ignore the low end, why? How many women work as bricklayers, miners, car mechanics and refuse collectors? Occupations such as kindergarten teachers, nurses, childminders and caretakers of the elderly are normally filled by women. Maybe men are better at certain jobs and women are better at certain jobs? This obsession with “equality in numbers” at all costs is detached from all reality.

There is a huge push for women in mining. You would know this if you were even remotely close to the issue. You guys still whine about it at the low end.

Classic moneyweb commentators. ‘Angry’ when there isn’t a push for equality at the low end. Even more angry when it is pointed out that there is a huge one.

Kinda pitiful from the cubicle boets.

This ‘pushing’ is not good. That is why they fail in posts that they are not naturally attracted to.

Okay, so you whine when they push and they whine when they don’t. Maybe the problem is you.

I see Bryden will not respond and iof he does eventually he might say Saudi Aramco.

Logic dictates that any sane capitalist would exclusively employ women, if it was really true that they earned less for doing the same job and working the same hours as men.

If the alleged pay gap for the same work and same hours really existed, men would find it really difficult to find any employment at all, because if the gender pay gap really existed, any company that employed males would find itself undercut by companies that employed allegedly cheaper female employees. The latter’s salary bill, for the same output, would then be far lower, and any company that employed males would go out of business as a result.

Any sane capitalist would also avoid nepotism yet here we are.

@Bloemfontein Big Time ANC Troll – of course, by “capitalist”, you mean “BEE parasite” or “cadre”.

Any real capitalist, who’s not a BEE beneficiary, who needs to face fair competition, will appoint the best people for the job, not his friends or family. It’s simple economics.

This is why Bobby Mugarbage flew to Singapore for medical treatment. Even Bobby Mugarbage wasn’t into nepotism, when it came to his own health.

The free market would be really stupid if they paid women less “just because” they are women.

This is the biggest hoax of our time. These people have lost the plot and the worst things is that most people agree with this agenda, they’ve been brainwashed into thinking they are liberal , meanwhile they are enormously simplifying a huge complex issue.

You can’t look at the outcome and then say it is rigged because it isn’t equally distributed . You must look at causation . Why is it what it is.

Life isn’t equal, people are different.

I may work much harder than Beyoncé , but I don’t earn what she does , therefore it’s unfair . No , Beyoncé can do things I can’t do , she has specific skills . There is no equality there . This is an extreme example , but too me , this is how insane the argument from the left has become .

Articles like this focus on Equality of Outcome rather Equality of Opportunity and that is just dangerous.

Equality of Outcome focuses on Quotas being imposed, that discriminates against and suppresses someone else’s effective chance of being selected. When we focus on Equality of Opportunity the starting position for every person is somewhere more or less at the same point without the suppression of someone else.

Collectivism Causes Suppression, Idiviluaism Causes Success.

Proponents for Equality of Outcome do not seek to improve the outcome or success rate of a given task but rather want it for name sake… Where as Equality of Opportunity focus on the Outcome Success Rate regardless base on the person most capable regardless of their age; gender, colour and any other name boxing.

In Canada, their president focused on ensuring that parliament had 50% woman representatives however, his party only had 25% woman representation and that mean that he selected less qualified people to do the job…

The Lefists focus who focus on pay gap generally forget about true cost. My wife has not worked in 3 years at the cost of the quality time she has benefited from spending that time with our son teaching right from wrong as well as homeschooling him very successfully apart from the countless hours that she has had to improve herself upon, one day when she does get back into the job market she will be earning less as she both less experience and practical know how regardless of her qualification.

This argument comes down to Time as a Currency,
My current situation: I spend at least 12 hours working, 1 hour driving + 1 hour studying + 1 hour being a father + 1 hour being a husband + 1 hour being a family man + 1 hour relaxing/entertainment and 6 hours sleeping.
The science has proved that those who work harder; smarter and for longer will generally get better wages.

Those are drumming for equal pay are demanding for high reward with the least amount of effort at the expense of those individuals who are working harder and spending more of their time and grey matter improving their lives. I have seen cleaners get R10,000 a month at Eskom they are less hard working than those who earn R3,200 as an unskilled labour who work for the contractor, this a clear indication that rewarding employees excessively prohibits improvement and to a greater extent success.

Ernie Els once said, “the more i practice the luckier i become”.

The quote you refernce was Gary Player and not Ernie Els.

Same difference

The free market would also be stupid to engage in nepotism yet here we are.

It is not your property if you cannot use it to benefit your people of choice. You have 100% discretion over its use and application if it really belongs to you. Is it nepotism if I only allow my own children to drive my car?

You have absolutely no right to demand a job at my company, but you do have a right to start your own company and then refuse to appoint me.

It is nepotism when I abuse public goods for my own benefit though. When I appoint my shamefully inept and corrupt ANC cadres at SOEs where they plunder the resources of the nation, that is nepotism.

So nepotism only applies to male relatives, eh? Maybe Lootfreely House isn’t getting such good value for whatever they pay you to troll this forum….

I love and hate this topic, people are very narrow minded and subjectively opinionate themselves with acute details which they not only whole heartedly believe but but also put under a microscope and make is seem the size of the full picture instead of the single spec of dust which it is.

All you need to do is watch 8min of Doctor Jordan B. Peterson to understand what is really going on here.

Jordan B. Peterson cannot say anything in less than 25 minutes- not even his address. If someone can’t make their point in 5 minutes, then I am not interested.

No thanks. Tired old man is boring and just prattles on. Only appeals to impressionable incels.

“Mistaking insolence for freedom has always been the hallmark of the slave.” ― Wilhelm Reich

The actual point where the employment opportunity originates from does not have a sexual orientation. Why allow anybody to hijack the process for personal gain by turning it into a gender issue?

Every job in a market economy is created by a rational consumer acting in his own best interest. The business, investors, board members, and management do not create jobs. They merely follow the orders of the consumers. If the employer misunderstands, ignores, or disobeys the demands of consumers, he will be punished with bankruptcy and lose his own job. The rules and operating procedures that really matter are ultimately laid down by the individual who pays for the entire value-adding process, and this is the consumer.

The consumer, and not the employer or the government even, is in charge of this process. The consumer is the ultimate beneficiary of this highly competitive process, and consumers are male as well as female and everything in between. This implies that there is perfect gender equality in the market system. There are no restrictions on the number of benefits the various sexes can reap from the gender-neutral market mechanism. It would be unfair if we allowed men to buy certain products and banned women from buying those products. We don’t need laws to prohibit the sale of lipstick and false eyelashes to most men. The market mechanism allocates these products fairly.

There is perfect gender equality and social justice in the market mechanism because everyone is free to use as much of its products and services as he or she pleases at any time. The price signal is the only effective, fair and just distributor of precious and scarce resources. The consumer rules through the price signal. The price signal gives women a powerful voice and puts them in command of the market. The same cannot be said for the alternative though. Socialism, and all the interferences and regulations that aim to bring social justice and gender equality only serve to distort the price signal, thereby plundering people of all genders of their benefits.

Every additional requirement about minimum wages, labour laws, gender equality, and social justice, over and above what the consumer already demands through the price signal, has to be confiscated from the consumer by the government and transferred to beneficiaries. This implies that there cannot be social justice and gender equality without trampling on the rights and benefits of that very same group that was supposed to benefit from the noble intentions. This is why socialism and the quest for social justice and gender equality is the hallmark of economic ignorance. These good intentions pave the road to hell and cause the enslavement of society.

Agreed — The wokes will next insist on a 50% representation for the world 100m men’s athletics final and then complain that they could not perform due to a handicap.

Na u wrong…. They not interested in an equal place at the start line.(they have had an equal place for decades) … They want an equal place on the winners podium at the end of the race – and if it means giving all the other competition a handicap so they can win – so be it.

Well said, this absolutely highlights the ridiculousness of the command and control economy.

After a long time I finally understand the meaning of the new word “woke”. It seems that the wokes are very arrogant (or wolves in sheeps clothing) to think they know better than the free market.

In my last job the president of our business unit was a woman, hence no need for interference from the wokes.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”


(see you ridiculous you look when you try irrelevant quotes hoping they will impress the impressionable?)

Every job in a market economy is created by a rational consumer acting in his own best interest.

We are definitely not in a market economy with all the nepotism jobs going around here. So we can stop pretending it has anything to with ‘efficiency’.

In my humble opinion South Africa cannot afford the luxury of closing the gender gap or any other gap for that matter. What is needed is merit-based appointments with a strong emphasis on accountability.

Bet you wouldn’t say that if you were female. Nice to rationalise when you only stand to lose.

Here’s my rationale for you to ponder: When SA Olive judges South African olive oils to chose the best locally produced olive oils in the country they do so by a process called blind tasting. The oils that have entered the competition are sampled and tasted without attaching any labels to the samples. This ensures that there is no bias and that the oils are evaluated purely on their quality or merits – as it should be. It’s a fair and square method that raises the bar for the whole industry and encourages South African olive oil producers to up their game to become world-class.

The screening processes for any merit-based appointment should follow a similar “unlabelled” filtering process that does not discriminate against, for example, gender. If it’s performance that counts then gender does not matter.

I would appoint a female any day if she’s the better candidate.

Considering the fact that about 50% of the population consists of the female gender and with politicians only interested in the number of votes they can collect in the constituency and not give a hoot about the rest it would be sensible from a political point of view to gain female sympathy. For journalists the main target is to get stories that will sell more newspapers (who cares about ethnics). The problem with this type of setup is that if an utmost competent and hardworking women is promoted into a top position she is immediately considered as affirmative action or she must have slept with the director. Is this wat any respectful male or female would want.

It is preferable for government employees and politicians to sleep their way to the top, for it is when they wake up that they cause all the problems.

End of comments.




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