The struggles of South African working mothers


A Department of Labour survey on women in South Africa’s labour market says there has been an “increased feminisation of the South African labour force between 1995 and 2005”.

“While both the number of men and women who are working or willing to work increased over the period, the increase in the female labour force was greater. Females accounted for almost 58% of the growth in the labour force, while males accounted for 42,3% of the change,” reads the report. [pullquote] Women are being punished and discriminated against for practising their natural reproductive rights[/pullquote]

Even with this increase, women still face many issues in the workplace. “Women are being punished and discriminated against for practising their natural reproductive rights,” a coalition representing a range of South African trade unions and NGOs, including labour federations COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU, the Labour Research Service WageIndicator and the Department of Labour, has said.

Amongst the issues that were identified by the coalition as being problematic were the difficulties in accessing the state maternity benefit fund – sometimes women were only paid out once they had already returned to work, instead of when they were on maternity leave.

The lack of compliance with existing legislation – such as providing appropriate spaces for breastfeeding, or ensuring that women got their same jobs and positions back after maternity leave, were also seen as problematic.

The Department of Labour said it is aware of the challenges women faced in the workplace and was willing to engage on the issues.


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