Inequalities between men and women increasing
August 4, 2009
Socio-economic inequality between women and men in South Africa is increasing, according to the latest MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women's Advancement released on Tuesday.
The results index saw South Africa's score decline by five points from 90.6 to 85.7 between 2008 and 2009.
"A score below 100 indicates gender inequality in favour of males," MasterCard said.
The indices relating to "Above median income"; "Incidence of management positions"; and "Labour force participation" reflected scores of 82.2, 55.2 and 75.5 respectively.
"In short, not only were fewer women participating in the labour force over the past year compared to men, but, compared to last year, fewer women per 100 men consider themselves to be in management positions," MasterCard said.
Moreover, relative to men's perceptions of their earnings, women's impressions of their income levels had also deteriorated.
MasterCard said that the indicator measuring "Tertiary education enrolment rates", however, showed a higher proportion of women were enrolling for tertiary education than men, with the number of women per 100 men increasing consistently since 2006.
"While the ratio of women to men enrolled in tertiary education in South Africa is growing, a smaller proportion of women feel they are on par with men when it comes to what they earn, their participation in the workforce and their position in the workplace," said Jill Docherty of MasterCard Africa.
"This has impacted women’s perceptions of their advancement, especially in South Africa where we see scores declining year-on-year," Docherty said.
Looking at each indicator in more detail, the indicator measuring above-median income shows that since 2007, women have become increasingly pessimistic about their income levels from a score of 109.6 in favour of women in 2007, decreasing marginally to 101.4 in 2008, and now having declined by 19 points to a current pessimistic score of 82.2 in 2009.
"This relative pessimism might be attributable to women feeling financially vulnerable because more men than women consider themselves financial decision-makers according to the survey results, and, compared with men, women allocate more of their income to essential household spending," economist Erika van der Merwe said.
Following a dramatic decline of more than 12 index points between 2007 and 2008, from 69.6 to 57, the managerial position component dipped further in 2009 to 55.21.
As a percentage, 64.4 percent of males compared to 35.6 percent of females said they occupied managerial roles in the workplace.
"These impressions are borne out by Statistics SA’s Labour Force Survey, which shows that, between the first quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, fewer women were categorised as 'employer', while more men were categorised as 'employer'," MasterCard noted.
The annual census of the Business Women’s Association confirmed that, as a percentage of employees, fewer women held executive managerial positions in 2009, compared with last year.
MasterCard’s estimate of labour force participation rates of women and men in South Africa, based on the World Bank and Unesco datasets, showed that a higher proportion of working-age men were employed than women.
Labour force participation rates deteriorated slightly for women between 2008 and 2009, from 45.5 percent to 45.0 percent.
As a percentage of the working-age population, men experienced a marginal decline in employment, from 61.4 percent to 59.6 percent, MasterCard said.
Van der Merwe said that relative to those for men, lower female participation rates could be explained in part by the fact that working-age women were bearing and raising children, and therefore not working.
"The overall effect has been to push women deeper into the territory of inequality.
"Additionally, the disparity can also be attributed to the limited access to economic opportunity for women," she said.
The only positive for women was that more of them were enrolled at tertiary institutions.
"This indicator is the only one of the four that indicates inequality in favour of women," she said.
"The overall sentiment, then, is that women are feeling increasingly vulnerable socio-economically... thus far, their efforts to counteract this inequality through tertiary-level education have not paid off," Van der Merwe noted. – Sapa
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