Males continue to dominate labour market

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Males continue to participate in the labour market at a higher rate than their female counterparts, despite the number of females in the workforce still exceeding that of males, Statistics South Africa announced on Thursday.

In their Gender Series Volume IV Economic Empowerment, 2001-2017 report which assesses progress made towards gender equality over time, Stats SA’s said the gap between male and female participation rates also remained relatively stable over the past 16 years.

“Even though both sexes were participating at lower rates in 2017 than in 2001, the gap between male and female participation rates was slightly lower in 2017 (12.1%) than in 2001 (12.4%) point difference,” the report revealed.

Labour force participation rates

In 2017, males had the highest labour force participation rates in Gauteng at 79.3%, followed by a 75.7% participation rate in Western Cape.

The lowest labour participation rate for males was observed in the Limpopo province at 53.6%.

For females, the labour force participation rate was also highest in Gauteng at 68.5%, followed by 62.7% in Western Cape, while the lowest labour participation rate for women was also observed in Limpopo 41.2%.

Impact of education on labour force

Since 2001 the report revealed that there has been a positive relationship between the levels of educational attainment and the labour force participation rate was observed for all population groups and for both sexes.

During this period, the labour force participation rates were the highest for those with a tertiary education, for males as well as females across all population groups.

The participation rates for black African males with a tertiary education remained stable at approximately 91% over the reference period.

Among black African females with a tertiary education, participation rates were lower in 2017 (86.3%) than in 2001 (91.3%). Though black Africans females with less than matric were significantly more likely to be employed (44.3%) than their counterparts (42.9%).

Unemployment rate

Although unemployment affects men and women equally, the report found that the rate of unemployment tends to be higher for women than for men.

Overall unemployment rates for males and females grew by 3.1% between 2001 and 2017 from 24.6% in 2001 to 27.7% in 2017.

Black African females without Grade 12/Matric experienced the highest increase of 9.9%.

Employment rate

Between 2001 and 2017, levels of employment increased by 3.7 million. Males reported the highest increase of about 2.3 million individuals, while the number of employed females only increased by 1.3 million.

The increase in the employment rate of females was observed in Gauteng and Western Cape by 1.7% and 1.6% respectively.

While Limpopo had the highest increase in the employment rate for males by 10.2%, Northern Cape experienced the highest decline of 17.4 %.


In terms of earnings, the report revealed that the in 2017, 37.3% of males earned below R3500 per month, whilst 49.1% of females fell in the same category.

In contrast to this 19% of males earned R11 000 or more compared to 14.8% of females.

Gender disparities in specific occupations

Stats SA’s Chief Director of Social Statics, Isabelle Schmidt, said this suggests that males and females were to some extent concentrated at the extreme ends of the salary scale.

Working for households as domestic workers was more common among females than males, while the second most common occupation for employed females was working as a clerk; more than two-thirds reported to be in this occupation.

Gender disparities were also observed in occupations like skilled agriculture, where females are represented in small numbers, even though the situation has improved over time.

According to the report, the gender parity index for skilled agriculture increased slightly from 0.14 in 2001 to 0.16 in 2017.

Although still low, Schmidt said this show that females are slowly venturing into skilled agriculture.

Plant and machine operator was one of the largest occupational category choices for males, with a growing increase from 85.1% in 2001 to 86.4% in 2017.

“However even when women are able to access formal employment, gender stereotypes and cultural norms often limit women to certain positions, which tend to be lower status or lower- paid positions than men.”

Between 2009 and 2017 females were more likely than males to receive grants with 5.9% of females relying on social grants as a means of survival.

In terms of gender parity in dwelling ownership, there has been an improvement of 4.6% in the number of female-headed households that owned formal dwellings between 2002 and 2017.

Governance level

At the governance level, the report revealed that South Africa is making progress at the three spheres of government comprising of the national government, provincial government and local government.

For example, between 1994 and 2017, South Africa saw a steady increase in the number of female ministers (from 7.1% in 1994 to 48.5% in 2017).

After the initial democratic elections in 1994, all premiers in the country were male, the situation improved considerably in 2018 when 44.4% of the premiers heading provinces in South Africa were female.

In 2018, the gender parities among Premiers and Members of the Executive Committee (MEC) were 0.79% and 0.82% respectively.

This indicates progression towards achieving gender equity in these positions.

Approximately a tenth of males were appointed as speakers or deputy speakers of provincial legislatures.

The results also highlighted relatively slow progress in gender equity within mayoral positions in municipalities with only 107 of the 257 mayors being females.  

The justice sector also struggles with gender representation which found that 70% of persons employed in the judiciary for the year 2017 were male. Nationally, over a third (36.9%) of the police workforce were females. –