South African women are more likely to be unemployed than men – and they are less likely to work in formal occupations, or to earn as much as their male counterparts.

These are among the findings of a Stats SA survey on how men and women fare in South Africa. An initial survey was conducted in 1998, and the new one, Women and Men in South Africa: Five Years On, follows on from that.

The study found that, within each population group, a smaller proportion of women than men in the age group 15 to 65 years are employed, and a larger proportion are not economically active. Among both women and men, the proportion of employed is highest among whites.

Among women, the percentage employed in 2001 was larger than the percentage employed in 1995 across all population groups. The difference between the two years was most marked for African women, and for women with no formal educational qualifications.

Among men, the percentage employed stayed the same or decreased slightly for all population groups, but also increased among those with no formal educational qualifications.

The difference between the official and expanded rates of unemployment is largest for women with no formal education, who are more likely to become discouraged work seekers.

Just over half (52%) of employed women work in the formal sector, compared to close on three-quarters (74%) of employed men. Formal sector work is least common for African women (38%) and most common for white men (93%) and women (92%).

The trade industry accounts for the main job of 30% of employed women and 20% of employed men between 15 and 65 years. There was a 10 percentage point increase in the percentage of women employed in wholesale and retail trade between 1995 and 2001.

In 2001, close on one fifth (19%) of employed women, compared to 9% of men, earned R200 or less per month. Nearly a quarter (23%) of men, but only 14% of women, earned more than R4 500 per month.

Among all population groups, men tended to work more hours than women in both 1995 and 1999. Mean hours worked increased between 1995 and 2001 for women and men in all population groups. The increase was most marked for African men, and African and white women.
Mean hourly earnings of employees are higher for men than women across all population groups.

The inequality continues into the home, according to the survey. Across all population groups, employed women spend far more time, on average, than employed men on unpaid tasks such as housework, caring for household members and community work.