Women in the South African Labour Market, 1995-2005
DPRU Working Paper No. 07-118
53 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2007
Date Written: February 2007
Recent research has found that changing policies and attitudes and improved economic performance have impacted on the labour market dynamics for women and the increased feminisation of the South African labour force since the mid-1990s has been well documented. While employment has increased more rapidly for women than for men over the period, it has been suggested that women are overrepresented in low-income, less secure employment. In addition, insufficient jobs were created to absorb the additional entrants to the labour market and as a result women are also overrepresented amongst the unemployed.
The objective of this report is to provide an overview of the changes in the status of women in the South African labour market between 1995 and 2005. The report finds that the feminisation of the South African labour force between 1995 and 2005 has been driven specifically by greater numbers of African women entering the labour force. Women benefited more from the increased demand for labour over the period than men, accounting for more than half of the increase in employment, with the bulk accruing to African women. In line with previous research it is found that the majority of women find jobs as unskilled and low-paid Elementary Workers. Female unemployment rates increased for all covariates, but African women and young women in particular struggled to find employment.
When returns to employment are considered, it is clear that discrimination by gender and race remains. When real mean monthly earnings in 2001 and 2005 are compared it is found that women of all race groups earned less than men in both years, with the exception of Coloureds in 2005. African women, specifically, are undoubtedly the most vulnerable participants in the labour force, particularly if they are young and poorly educated. Even those African women who did find employment continue to earn considerably less than their White counterparts, with very large differences especially at the lower skills levels.
Keywords: South African labour market, discrimination by gender and race
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