Cape Town: Improving economic support for women is not an act of charity, but is a way to ensure more growth and development, the Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel said on Thursday.
“There’s an economic argument for gender equality – it’s not an act of charity to women, it’s a way that society assists itself to grow and to develop,” Patel said, while addressing the Women’s Parliament held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).
Patel acknowledged that social progress brought risks, but stressed that it also brought enormous benefits too and that these needed to be better understood and communicated to South Africans.
He said South Africa needed to improve the position of the majority of women and ensure that women took their place in society as managers, leaders and professionals, by increasing the number of women entrepreneurs and reducing inequality in the workplace.
The minister said the New Growth Path, which aims to entrench a more equitable and employment-creating growth, could benefit women in a number of ways.
These include, among other things, supporting a more equitable pay regime between men and women, the promotion of those sectors that employ a large percentage of women (such as tourism, health, education and retail) and ensuring the BEE codes encourage more participation by women in the economy.
Patel said it was important for the country to roll out more municipal services and infrastructure, as inadequate infrastructure such as water, childcare, transport and electricity was likely to hit women harder than men.
In this way, he said, the National Infrastructure Plan, which was adopted in March, could help empower women by increasing opportunities for women in the former homelands, reduce household labour, stimulate employment creation and improve social facilities in the area of healthcare, childcare and education.
Better monitoring could also play a key role in improving economic support for women, said Patel.
This could involve better monitoring of women’s participation in credit to small businesses and co-operatives, participation in the productive sectors of the economy and construction and transport, land reform, management positions and employment schemes such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).
Patel said a dashboard that had been used by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to speed up and track loans to businesses, would soon be put into use by the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa) to speed up and monitor loans to small enterprises.
He attributed the position of poor economic position of women to the legacy of apartheid which disempowered women and continuing patriarchy.
In all, 1.8 million more women than men don’t work for an income, women are on average paid less than men – with the median income for women workers in 2010 at R2 200, compared to R3 200 a month for men.
Women are also less likely to be lawyers, architects and engineers and less likely to own a business – while 80% of women who are entrepreneurs run survivalist firms, compared to 50% of men who run survivalist firms.
Women average as many years as men in education and training, but are more likely to be prepared for jobs that don’t pay as well as men.
In education, the pass rate for women is lower than for men in every province except for Gauteng, with rural provinces more likely to have poor pass rates for women than more urbanised provinces