Wednesday, October 20, 2010

South Africa Must Address Gender Inequalities In Private Employment Sector Before It Can Meet Millennium Development Goals

The Economist: Women in South Africa Walking Several Paces Behind
Commission for Gender Equality
BBC News: Global Health Declaration – Ten Years On
United Nations Development Programme: South Africa Millennium Development Goal 3

Leaders from across the globe gathered together around a decade ago and to develop the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs are a set of eight goals for the development of social and economic programs across the world. World leaders hoped that countries would be able to satisfy all of the goals by 2015. One of the MDGs world leaders committed to was the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Ten years after the MDGs announcement sub-Saharan African nations, even more developed ones such as South Africa, are still struggling to reach the MDGs.

South Africa, in theory, should be leading the African nations when it comes to equalizing the playing field between men and women. South Africa’s Constitution, written in 1996, specifically prohibits sexism and equates it with racism. However, even with such a strong government textual commitment to women’s rights, the country still needs to make significant improvements in order to fulfill the MDGs.

Since the implementation of the MDGs, South Africa has progressed towards the goal of gender equality. When evaluating the number of women in leadership roles in the government, South Africa is impressive. Forty percent of its Parliament members are women, which is the third highest proportion in the world. Women also make up 43% of all Cabinet members and 40% of all local government leaders.

While South Africa exemplifies equality in the government sector, it is struggling to achieve gender equality within its private sector. Despite the Employment Equity Act Parliament passed over a decade ago, white men still dominate South African private companies. The Employment Equity Act mandates that companies with over 50 employees had to hire and promote women, blacks, and the disabled in proportion to their representation in the South African population. The Women’s Business Association reports that only 10% of board members and directors are female. Women represent almost one half of the working population, but most females work in domestic services. In addition, women only get paid about a third of what men receive from employers. Women in South African are also much more likely than men to be unemployed. If South Africa is dedicated to meeting the MDG of establishing gender equality, it is obvious that the country must do something to address the inequalities in its private employment sector. Even if the nation acts, there is a question of whether the five years remaining on the MDG timeline is long enough for South Africa to reform the disparities in its private employment sector.

1.What can South Africa do to fix some of the gender inequalities in the private sector?
2.Why do you think South African women have thrived in the public sector but not the private sector?

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