News / South Africa

Sanele Gumada
3 minute read
26 Mar 2018
7:00 am

Unions intend to take action against gender pay gap

Sanele Gumada

Labour leaders and spokespeople have hit out at the pay situation in the private sector.

Labour unions intend taking action against the private sector if the gender pay gap issue in South Africa is not urgently addressed.

Unions are thus calling on business to implement employment equity strategies to minimise this problem, which is still occurring in workplaces 24 years after the dawn of democracy.

The challenge to achieve gender equality is still very evident in the inadequate and disappointing salaries that women in South Africa get compared to their male counterparts.

Statistics SA’s Labour Market Dynamics Survey has shown that women earn 23% less than men.

Men earn a monthly income of R3 500 while women earn only R2 700, the survey shows.

Trade union federation Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the private sector affirmed the oppression of women by not paying them adequately.

“The private sector is lagging behind in employment equity. Job placement is very patriarchal and this attitude needs to change.”

He said the union was engaging with the private sector to address the gender pay gap and this is an “ongoing struggle”.

“We are clear that there is no overnight campaign to redress this. However, we demand more action on this problem.”

SA Federation of Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi also emphasised the need for gender transformation in salaries in the sector.

“The centre of the problem is that men are the core people that make decisions in the workplace. Affirmative action will fail if this is not addressed. Women should be given more power in the decision-making process,” he said.

Vavi said nepotism was also a highly problematic factor contributing to the gender pay gap. “Ninety percent of positions are never advertised.

Unfortunately, if some senior managers are male, they will always recruit others similar to them.

Employees should be promoted on the basis of merit and it should not be an issue of race and gender.” Commission of Gender Equality spokesperson Javu Baloyi echoed these sentiments, calling it a “massive problem”.

“Our government does not have policies that effectively implement transformation and they ignore gender inequality in the workplace,” Baloyi said.

Business Women’s Association of South Africa (Bwasa) board member Kerry Anne Oosthuysen identified gender inequality and patriarchy as the main problem.

“South Africa is plagued by deeply rooted patriarchy which manifests in every facet of a woman’s life. Gender discrimination and inequality is rife within the workplace and culminates in unequal pay for equal work.

This is pronounced in the private sector where job grading and pay notches aren’t as standardised and publicised as in the public sector.”

Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said a collective effort was needed to alleviate this situation.

“If people keep making it only a political issue or only an ANC issue, we will never be able to deal with this,” she said.

“If we aren’t able to come together as women […] we will suffer the same consequences irrespective of where we are on the ladder; whether it’s in a political or a corporate space,” she said.



  • Bwasa board member Kerry Anne Oosthuysen has urged that employees discuss their salaries, as women do not know what their male colleagues earn. This will assist in the situation being addressed, she said.
  • South African Association of Women Graduates president Siwe Coka also emphasised the importance of discussing gender pay and gender inequality with women in informal economies.