by Natalie Singer

A recent marketing tactic by car manufacturer Hyundai, offering South African women buyers a R27 000 discount on a new vehicle purchase because they earn 27% less than men, was hit by a flurry of social media responses arguing against this “fact”., a non-partisan organisation promoting accuracy in the media, decided to check the state of play and concluded in their article that this statement, while possibly over-simplistic given South Africa’s diverse skills base and work environment, is in fact accurate. But what is the broader picture of gender pay differentials within the country?

Gender discrimination

Unfair discrimination on any grounds, particularly one such as gender as listed within the Employment Equity Act (EEA), is not acceptable in the workplace. And this extends to remuneration.

The recently amended Section 6 now stipulates that all organisations must strive to ensure Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value to eliminate any form of discrimination, including race and gender, that might exist within the workplace owing to historical issues.

South Africa’s anti-discrimination and remedial initiatives, including Employment Equity, have in fact fast-tracked gender pay gap closure as companies are incentivised to promote women into more senior roles within business. This increase in women among professional work categories and managerial posts has improved the overall pay averages within the female workforce. However, there is still a definite bias for women occupying lesser skilled and lower paid roles, especially within the informal sector.

According to the most recent World Economic Forum (WEF) Gender Pay Report, South Africa ranks 15th out of 144 nations surveyed in terms of the smallest differential between men and women. Considering the United Kingdom ranks 20th and the USA 45th, South Africa can most certainly be proud of its achievements in ensuring equitable treatment. Interestingly, the best-ranking African country is Rwanda which comes in at 5th behind the Nordic states.

AA boosts pay for black female professionals

In mid-2016 Analytico, a data and earnings analytic consultancy, conducted a comparative earnings analysis of genders across different races (692 704 individuals) to indicate any major discrepancies. As was to be expected, there were significant differences when comparing professionals, i.e. those with jobs requiring higher skill/knowledge levels from those occupying more elementary jobs.

Particularly interesting was the finding that while professional white men still out-earn their white female counterparts by as much as 30% based on median, black female professionals are paid on average 17% more than their black professional male peers. This is almost certainly linked to the supply and demand premiums associated with organisations targeting black females from an employment equity perspective.

Racial differences still abound when comparing median salaries. Much can still be attributed to historical differences of access to education, higher education and skills development, and resulting economic opportunities. The study goes as far as suggesting that white South Africans still earn 6 times more than black South Africans on average, when comparing a median salary across the workforce.

Through our analyses, conducted with businesses large and small across a variety of industries, we are relieved to see that within organisations and when like jobs are compared, the incidences of racial – and gender – pay discrimination is less than this research would seemingly imply. Of course, legacy issues abound and pay differentials, although possibly justifiable within the constraints of the justifiable differences outlined in the Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value Code of Good Practice, may still be perceived as being discriminatory and result in equal pay claims being lodged.

Currently there are an average of 300 equal pay claims being lodged monthly with the CCMA, would your company be ready to defend your remuneration policy and practice if you found yourself there? Do you know whether any potential discrimination exists in your business – likely created because of unconscious bias or outdated recruitment practices – and would you know how to rectify these without blowing the budget? We’d love to be of assistance. For a no-obligation discussion please feel free to contact me. Click here to send me an e-mail.