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File image: IOL.

Do South African women earn 27% less than men?

By Zeenat Vallie Time of article published Sep 27, 2017

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CAPE TOWN -  A car distributor tweeted that women in South Africa earn more than a quarter less than their male counterparts. The statistics prove that this may well be the case. 

Gender pay gap has been a much contested notion since anyone can remember. 

We take a look at cold hard statistics in order to set the record straight and interrogate whether research backs the car distributor's gender pay gap claim or not. 

Researched by Africa Check

“Women earn 27% less than men,” the South African distributor of Korean car maker Hyundai recently tweeted.

Based on this disparity, Hyundai South Africa offered 100 South African women a R27 000 discount on a new car.

A number of people questioned the statistic. “I wonder who’s this feminist who came up with this false info,” tweeted one person.

“This is a myth. We are paid equal for the same job, and it is illegal if this discrimination occurs,” offered another.

Is this statistic based on sound research? Africa Check decided to investigate.

Statistic not global but ‘very much South African’

The car distributor followed up on his claim in a subsequent tweet, stating that the statistic was a “global average” from the 2017 Pulse of the People report run by market research firm Ipsos. 

This statistic was confirmed by Director and political analyst at Ipsos, Mari Harris who said that it was from their report. 

Notably, Pulse of the People contains a list of questions that the organisation runs every six months as part of a study called Ipsos Khayabus.

The 2017 analysis, conducted between 23 April and 22 May is not a global estimate, says Hyundai South Africa. 

Rather, it is “very much South African”, Harris told Africa Check.  

‘Women earn about 73% of what men earn’

Ipsos South Africa interviewed 3,598 employed people nationally across various occupations and in both urban and rural areas.

"We conduct face-to-face in home interviews in the homes and home languages of randomly chosen South Africans,” Harris told Africa Check.

The results accounted for 38.3 million South Africans aged 15 years and older. 

The analysis found that while the average personal income for men was R9,222.16 per month, it was an average of R6,688.80 per month for women. 

“Women earn about 73% of what men earn (on average),” Harris explained. From this, Ipsos concluded that women earn 27% less than men.

Women earn 23% less – Stats SA

According to executive manager for labour statistics at Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), Peter Buwembo, the latest figures on earnings could be found in the bureau’s Labour Market Dynamics Survey. This survey uses data from Quarterly Labour Force Surveys, during which 30,000 households across the country are interviewed.

Distribution of monthly median earnings by race and sex  

                       Women  Men       

Black African  2 500      3 250

Coloured        2 700      3 028

Indian/Asian  6 000       7 000

White            10 000     13 100
                      2 700       3 500


According to Stats SA, men earned a median income of R3,500 per month while women earned R2,700 per month in 2015. The “median income” is the value where half of people’s income falls above it and the other half falls below.

Based on this data, women earned 23% less than men.

'Average incomes tend to be considerably higher’

Despite the similar average difference in income by Stats SA and Ipsos (23% versus 27%), it is important to note that there is a difference between average and median income. 

“Averages tend to be considerably higher than medians because high earners earn so much more than everyone else, meaning just a few individuals raise the average wage appreciably",  said professor in the school of economics at the University of Cape Town,  Martin Wittenberg to Africa Check. 

(Note: The median wage gap between men and women further varies – it is wider for both low and high earners and narrower at the middle.)  

Discrimination plays a role

An added contributor to gender pay difference is discrimination, say experts. 

"Part of the difference in earnings between men and women arises because men and women have different productive characteristics", explained senior lecturer at the University of KwaZulu Natal's school of accounting, economics and finance, Colette Muller. 

Distribution of monthly median earnings by age and sex     

               Female    Male
15-24      2 500       2 600

25-34      2 863       3 250

35-44      2 800       4 000

45-54      2 500       4 300

55-64      2 600       4 500

               2 700       3 500


Conclusion: Research backs car maker’s gender pay gap claim

While the actual size of the gap differs based on individual study characteristics, research consistently shows a notable difference in what women and men take home.  

Given this, we rate Hyundai’s claim mostly correct', concludes Africa Check. 

This report was written by Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website by clicking here.


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