Aug 192017
 
Op-Ed: Don’t forget the woman worker this August ANNIE DEVENISH SOUTH AFRICA 17 AUG 2017 11:45 (SOUTH AFRICA) This August the media will focus on women as consumers, as beneficiaries of state services, and as victims, in a much needed effort to bring attention to gender-based violence, but it is important that we don’t forget women as workers, because it’s precisely the invisibility and undervaluing of women’s labour that plays a key role in reinforcing gender inequality. By ANNIE DEVENISH Xolisile Mhlongo is already setting up stall by the time Durban’s mynah birds begin chirping on a weekday summer morning. She arrives at Warwick Junction, a busy transport hub near Durban inner city, at 4.30am every day to prepare the meat and dumplings she sells to passing customers. Across South Africa, in urban and rural centres, at taxi ranks and pedestrian thoroughfares, traders like Mhlongo are setting up shop for the day ahead. They are part of the more than 530,000 street traders recorded by the South African Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), 70% of whom are women. Mhlongo works six days a week, commuting from her family home in KwaMashu, a township about 20kms from the city centre. Working long hours, often without adequate toilets and storage facilities, and sometimes in hostile environments facing theft or police harassment, these women generate vital income to support their families and their children’s education. This August the media will focus on women as consumers, as beneficiaries of state services, and as victims, in a much needed effort to bring attention to gender-based violence, but it is important that we don’t forget women as workers, because it’s precisely the invisibility and undervaluing of women’s labour that plays a key role in reinforcing gender inequality. According to Stats SA there are 9,438,000 economically active women in the labour force as of 2015, which means that they constitute almost 50% of the nearly 21 million economically active South Africans. The term economically active includes both people who are working, and those who want to work, but are unemployed. Like Mhlongo, more than a third – 39 % in fact – of employed women work in the informal sector, compared to 29% of employed men. Statistics South Africa’s definition of informal employment includes all workers in the informal sector. Employers, own-account workers and unpaid family workers are defined as being in the informal sector if the (more…)