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SA women have higher unemployment rate, earn fewer benefits than men

The unemployment rate among women has increased while the rate for men has dropped. Picture: Ron Lach/Pexels

The unemployment rate among women has increased while the rate for men has dropped. Picture: Ron Lach/Pexels

Published Aug 16, 2023


Women continue to bear the brunt of South Africa’s disturbingly high unemployment statistics with an official unemployment rate of 35.7 percent compared to men’s 30 percent.

They also get the short end of the stick when it comes to pension contributions, paid leave, paid sick leave, and UIF contributions.

While the country’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.3 percent in Q2 2022, the rate among women increased by 0.3 percent, according to Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for Q2 2023.

The unemployment rate among women is officially higher than the country’s total rate while the rate for men is lower. Of the approximately 11 million women of working age in the country, only seven million are employed.

The recent unemployment rate changes for women are recorded as follows:

  • Q2 2022: 35.5 percent
  • Q3 2022: 35.1 percent
  • Q4 2022: 35.5 percent
  • Q1 2023: 35.4 percent
  • Q2 2023: 35.7 percent

The statistics for men read rather differently as, where South Africa’s overall unemployment rate is 32.6 percent, the percentage of unemployed men is 2.6 percent lower.

The changes to the unemployment rate among men over the past five quarters are recorded as follows:

  • Q2 2022: 32.6 percent
  • Q3 2022: 31.0 percent
  • Q4 2022: 30.4 percent
  • Q1 2023: 30.7 percent
  • Q2 2023: 30.0 percent

Despite advances made in female financial inclusion, women remain the most financially vulnerable demographic, with research showing that even when they have access to a stable, guaranteed monthly income, they worry about covering their monthly household expenses. As the global economy records another year of exceptionally high inflation and low-growth economic activity, Denise Neethling, marketing manager at earned wage access company Paymenow, says consumers in many parts of the world are experiencing what the World Bank calls a cost-of-living crisis.

“These factors have an immense impact on women’s finances, exposing them to debt and inhibiting their financial advancement. What’s more, despite the continued rising cost of living and many households already reeling from the financial strain, women are more vulnerable to debt traps.”

Paymenow’s recent data shows that women are using already-earned wages to access cash and purchase necessities such as data and airtime. Female users of the Paymenow app most often cashed out accessed earned wages (56 percent), followed by use on airtime (17 percent), data (13 percent) and vouchers (9 percent).

While Stats SA data reveals that 41.8 percent of households in South Africa are female-headed, Neethling says 64% of South African women cannot stretch their salaries to the end of the month, and fear what will happen should a financial emergency.

In addition, Sanlam’s 2022 Women’s Report notes that South Africa’s gender pension gap sits at 26%, reflecting the average difference in retirement income between men and women. Therefore, women cannot afford to retire as early, or as comfortably, as men.

Meanwhile, the QLFS data also shows that women are less likely to earn certain employment benefits compared to men:

Pension/retirement fund contributions

  • Women: 42.7 percent
  • Men: 45.4 percent

Paid leave

  • Women: 65.7 percent
  • Men: 66.1 percent

Paid sick leave

  • Women: 71.6 percent
  • Men: 72.3 percent

Maternity/paternity leave

  • Women: 57.7 percent
  • Men 51.7 percent


  • Women: 60.3 percent
  • Men: 64.2 percent

Medical aid benefits

  • Women: 29.8 percent
  • Men: 29.2 percent

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