The Deputy Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality, Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, dispelled any inclination to blame the current economic woes on Covid-19. “Our economy has been bleeding way before the advent of Covid-19. Low growth has been the story of South African economy since 1994, with few exceptions.”

The problem is that “our economic pathways have not changed since pre-1994. It favoured those with assets and has not created wealth or distributed wealth to those who don’t have assets”. Furthermore, “Even our monetary policy doesn’t focus on employment creation.”

Dr Ntshabiseng spoke during a virtual Inclusive Economic Growth-Oversight Summit hosted by Parliament yesterday on the theme “Accelerating women’s participation in South Africa’s economic reconstruction: maximising the growth potential of provinces, districts, and localities”. 

Women bear the brunt of this economic scenario, Dr Ntshabiseng said, and most of them now depend on social grants, making these temporary measures a permanent fixture of the fiscus. As a result, many South Africans have been reduced to dependents.

“We need to do things differently in a climate where private sector is averse to investment. “That cannot be denied. Our private sector is in investment strike. It sits with millions of rands that it affords to mortgages rather than in direct investment that can bring about economic growth.”

Not only that, she alleges that the private sector is also guilty of tax hording. In her view, the New Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan has not been well received by the markets. On the back of its announcement, we are now faced with down-grading that will plunge South Africa into sub-investment grade. However, she commended the idea of preferential procurement for women by government departments. “This must be measured to determine if it’s a universal principle and how it’s linked to budget allocation in various departments.”

In addition, there should be a targeted investment in enterprises owned and managed women. These measures could go a long way to institutionalising gender parity.

Also participating in the summit, the Auditor-General, Dr Risenga Maluleke, mentioned that the statistics paint a bleak picture of poverty, unemployment and inequality, a picture far removed from inclusive growth. Women “still earn lesser than men for the same job. This shows that women are more vulnerable in our labour market than men. It’s even worse for black and coloured women.”

Because salary determines expenditure, women continue to be the ones most vulnerable to poverty, unemployment and inequality. “Due to these gender disparities in the work place, statistically, women tend to be poorer than men. As a result, women headed-household experience more poverty than that of their counterparts.” Compounding the problem, girls are likely to leave school earlier than boys. This is due to the care-giver responsibilities that they often shoulder.

Social grants, she said, have played a major role in alleviating poverty in these women headed-households. “The role of grants in reducing poverty in many house-holds is evident in our research outcomes.”  

By Abel Mputing
26 November 2020