Men need to step up on the home front to ensure inclusion in workplace

Fathers need to accept responsibility for their children – either by contributing financially or caring for their children while the mother works. Picture: iStock
Fathers need to accept responsibility for their children – either by contributing financially or caring for their children while the mother works. Picture: iStock

With slow global economic growth resulting in many sectors shedding jobs around the world, South African males now, more than ever, are urged to accept responsibility for their families.

Statistics South Africa’s latest survey shows that the Youth Unemployment Rate in South Africa increased from 52.40% in the first quarter to 53.70% in the second quarter of 2018, highlighting the ever-increasing numbers of unemployed youth.

But these statistics have not deterred job-hungry women, 50% more women actively searching for job, compared to their male counterparts.

Two out of three (Lulaway) job seekers are females, so it is clear that there is a disproportionately large number of young females seeking work.

But not all ages of women display the same keenness to find employment.

Age is a significant factor in both the inclination to seek work and ability to succeed in the workplace.

Of female job seekers, 30% fall into the 29 – 35 years age bracket, compared with just 25% of male job seekers in this category.

And similarly, the majority (30%) male job seekers, are aged between 22 and 25 years compared with 25% of female work-seekers falling into the same category.

These figures reflect the finding that 30% of Lulaway’s female job seekers who are recipients of child grants are between the ages of 29 and 35 years.

Women of this age are most likely to have child dependents to support and thus display the greatest motivation to find work.

Having children to provide for is the primary driver of work-seeking activity, studies have shown.

Studies show that even among those women employed, black women are the most vulnerable in the labour market, with larger employment shares in low-skilled occupations.

The proportion of black African women employed in low-skilled occupations was around 43% in both 2016 and 2017, according to Statistics South Africa

These women continue to bear the burden of being both primary caregiver to their children as well as the homestead’s breadwinner.

The challenge faced by these work seekers is the reality that many jobs do not cater for women with children, meaning women are excluded despite their willingness to work and their valuable contribution in the workplace.

Employers often favour hiring employees without dependents. They believe that they are more reliable and more committed to work and display lower levels of absenteeism and higher productivity.

Children residing with only their mothers constitute 42%, compared with just 2.5% of those solely living with their fathers

The brunt of childcare falls to the women, combined with the urgency to make a living. A large percentage of women are caring for their children without their father’s involvement, with just 36% of children living in the same household as their biological fathers.

For every eight hours of unpaid care work done by a woman in South Africa, only one hour is done by a man, research indicates.

While a portion of fathers do contribute financially, it’s not sufficient resulting in the necessity for women to generate an income too.

Fathers need to accept responsibility for their children – either by contributing financially or caring for their children while the mother works.

If males made a meaningful financial contribution to their children’s well-being, women would be able to stay home and look after their children without the additional burden of trying to work and care for their families.

Alternatively, if it was known that women with children had sufficient and reliable support with childcare, they would be included or represented in the workplace fairly and even be recognised as motivated, productive employees and be offered more opportunities for growth.

Women cannot do both roles, nor should they be expected to do so. We have seen that women with children add unique value to the workplace, but only when they are able to fulfil this role with the support of their family.

This will happen when the fathers bear more responsibility and empower women to take part in the economy. Only then will we move towards a more inclusive and equitable society.

Jake Willis is chief executive of Lulaway, a youth employment engine.

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