“Be grateful you even have a job to come back to” – South Africa’s private sector

Companies being under no legal obligation to pay women their full salaries while on maternity leave is one of the many unjust and uncomfortable realities that women find themselves having to navigate in this country.

Did you know that the biological father of 61.8% of children younger than 18 was absent from the household?  this is similar to 2016’s figure of 62.2%.  The SA Human Rights Commissions Report states that only 1 in 3 children in South Africa lives with both biological parents, Statistics SA, has found that majority of households in South Africa are headed by women – these very women are custodians of poverty.

Irrefutably, women are more likely to raise their children as single parents. We could argue the morality behind leaving this very financially daunting task to those most economically vulnerable in society, however, this being a socio-economic ill, we need socio-economic solutions. Urgently.

Certain laws are put into place to safeguard the interests and biological roles that women need to play – while this is a start, they do not go far enough. The government could be found complicit for leaving it up to ‘company policy’ or ‘collective agreements’ to decide.

There is also the chilling reality of expectant mothers claiming through the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), so, options ..right? Wrong. The amount received is less than a fragment of their income, it isn’t even nearly enough considering South Africa’s pay differences – Yes, there is also that not-so-little factor, women being paid less than their male counterparts.

Expecting mothers to nurse newborn babies and keep a household afloat with only up to 58% of their salaries is unavailing, especially in the very likely event of them being single parents. Despite its amendments, labour relation policies leave much to be desired in this regard.

At the very heart of poverty eradication, lies the economic empowerment of women, such regressive laws do nothing for our bid to gender equality. Instead sexist stereotypes about which gender should handle which tasks are perpetuated. Such laws further victimize the already dispossessed and marginalized of our society.

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