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THE REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN ECONOMY

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By: Khanyisa Phika – Alexander Forbes Economist

 

More than 26 years later, women are still underrepresented in the South African economy

Every Women’s Day commemoration brings us an opportunity to track progress on the declaration made in 1994 by the country’s first democratic government to prioritise gender equality as reflected in the South African Constitution. For centuries women around the world have been marginalised by repressive cultural norms and excluded from fully participating in the economy and in decision-making roles to the detriment of society.

Equality, equity, and parity – what’s the difference?

Equality is the desired end state of equal opportunities and access. Equity is the process followed to achieve equality by addressing historical inequality issues. Parity is how we measure equality (all genders are represented equally in terms of numbers).

When assessing gender parities, three areas stand out:

  1. Women are often not granted meaningful work responsibilities

Sometimes the obscure reasoning for this is that they may fall pregnant and take maternity leave. This is observed in the type of policies employers put in place which often unintentionally prevent women from advancing in their careers and assuming leadership roles.

  1. Income disparities are still quite large between men and women who do work of equal value

This is despite women of working age accounting for about 51% of the total population (46% of the labour force) and contributing almost 50% of the national GDP. These statistics show that the value women bring to the economy is disproportionately larger than that brought by men.

  1. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed societal imbalances on the home front

The NIDS-Cram Wave 5 report on the impact of Covid-19 on employment in South Africa confirms that women have been more severely impacted by the challenging circumstances than men. However, women received the least of the income support provided by the government during the hard lockdown, with rippling effects on career progression and financial security.

 

Progress to close gender parity gaps remains extremely slow

According to the Economic Opportunity gender gap index, it will take about 202 years to close the glass ceiling where women are still being overlooked for managerial or senior official roles. It is quite evident that more work still needs to be done and fast.

 

 

The labour market is still more favourable to men

According to Statistics SA, the unemployment rate among females increased from 26.6% in Q1 2008 to 34.0% in Q1 2021 (compared with from 20.5% to 31.4% for men over the same period). This confirms the bleak picture that employment conditions have worsened in the last decade despite a growing need for a more equal workforce as depicted by SA’s improved global gender equality ranking of 19th out of 149 countries.

 

Women’s career progression narrows at each successive level in many organisations on a global scale

A recent McKinsey study shows that across all industries, 48% of women were employed in entry-level positions, with only 23% in C-suite roles. According to a PwC 2019 report, women constitute only 3.3% of chief executives of JSE-listed companies. While female professionals increased from 45.9% in 2008 to 51.1% in 2020, women in managerial roles grew by only 1.8 percentage points since 2008 to 31.6% in 2020. At this rate, it will take another 30 years to achieve gender parity, especially in decision-making roles.

In South Africa, more progress in female representation is evident in the public sector than in the private sector. The number of women in parliament improved from only 2.7% prior to 1994 to 27.7% in 2020, translating into about 48% female representation of government and a ranking of 10th among the UN nations with gender quotas.

 

The issue of gender pay gaps is alarming

South Africa ranks 117 out of 149 countries in gender wage fairness, despite the positive gender equality ranking. Notably, extremely slow progress has been made on addressing gender pay gaps with the gender wage gap reduced by 0.03% and the gender pay gap stagnantly firm between 23% and 35%, despite considerable government legislation to prevent gender discrimination by employers. Meanwhile, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that the average global pay gap between men and women for equal work is at about 20%.

 

Women spend more hours on unpaid care work during the pandemic

Working mothers have an extended workday with the simultaneous full day of work and more hours spent caring for children and doing household activities than men, as the support structures before lockdown (school and childcare) were not available. Prior to the Covid-19 related restrictions, domestic work was greatly undervalued and underpaid, yet both men and women recognise the intense toll these activities take on women. There is a global appreciation of women’s rights and that many women spend more hours doing more than three-quarters of unpaid care work in a single day. Despite unpaid care and domestic work being an essential part to the functioning of the whole economy, women tend to endure disparate responsibility compared to men. Women are said to spend about 3 times more hours a day to unpaid care and domestic activity than men, and according to the UN, the monetary value of the unpaid work done by women is estimated between 10% and 39% of GDP.

 

Gender parity is the responsibility of all concerned

Closing gender disparities will not occur naturally; it will require deliberate intention and action on the part of government, business, men and women:

To further support women’s financial well-being, government should consider decent tax-deductible breaks for childcare. Currently, women typically pay for childcare. Unavoidable costs, such as lost hours at the workplace and the costs of providing food, clothing and education, tend to reduce the wealth that women could be accumulating over time for retirement.

It is commendable that South Africa has a robust legislative framework to support equality in leadership representation and in pay such as the Employment Equity (EE) Act, which enforces the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. However, pieces of legislation such as EE will not produce the results until those who can make the change effect it. The fact is both public and private sector leaders have the authority to close the gender gap in female career advancement and promote gender equality within their organisations.

Employers will need to implement family-friendly policies and procedures to support both male and female employees. Furthermore, women are equally capable of leading business to profitability, especially when supported, mentored and sponsored throughout their career stages. Companies that invest in inclusive and conducive culture not only promote equal opportunity and access for women to achieve their potential over the long term, but also find that the men thrive too, allowing for shared growth.

 

The dangers of inaction in correcting gender disparities include loss in output and increased inequality

The Covid-19 pandemic has extensively worsened gender equality prospects. If left unchecked, societies will continue to be less equal, more divided, and poorer, especially for women, hence the urgency to take corrective measures. There are risks that come with either delaying or complete failure of the implementation of processes that will promote gender parity. Most critical is that of the loss to potentially add an estimated US$13 trillion to the global GDP that could promote job creation opportunities and uplift women and societies and alleviate poverty.

This crisis is really an opportunity for business, government and policymakers to collectively redefine a clear economic recovery path. For South Africa to achieve sustainable economic growth and aggressively ignite job creation, women’s full and equal economic participation is paramount.

 

Business

THE ACCELERATION TOWARDS A MOBILE FIRST ECONOMY

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By Brad Hyett, CEO at phos

 

Over the last year, we have seen a big shift towards contactless payments. Fuelling this has of course been the coronavirus pandemic, which has made the public hesitant to handle cash due to the health concerns.

As multiple national lockdowns forced physical stores to close, and customers demanded easy, cash-free payment options, merchants had to quickly adapt. The result? An increased provision of pay and collect services.

In the UK alone, 83% of people use contactless payments according to data from the Office of National Statistics.

So it’s vital that merchants are equipped with the most efficient payment solutions, as the UK heads towards a mobile-first economy.

 

Proliferation of contactless payments

In 2020, 90% of UK card payments were contactless. This equates to an increase of 12% on the year prior, despite the total number of payments made falling by 11% from 2019 to 2020. Moreover, the affordability of smartphones has increased significantly over the last decade. And it’s estimated that 84% of UK adults now own one.

We’re Seeing merchants embrace more efficient and cost effective payment methods in response. While physical payment terminals are often too expensive for many small businesses, software point of sale, or SoftPoS, enables merchants to turn hardware that they already own – i.e. their mobile device – into a point of sale terminal.

With merchants increasingly adopting these innovative technologies, contactless payments will continue to gain popularity among the general public. In 2020, 13.7 million people in the UK either didn’t use cash at all or only used it to make a single purchase. That’s double the same figure from the previous year.

 

Changing consumer demand

Now more than ever, consumers are aware of how innovative payment solutions can add efficiency to their daily lives. As such, consumers now demand better payment services, including reduced queuing times, checkoutless stores, and bespoke loyalty schemes.

Businesses such as Mercedes offer an end-to-end digital car purchasing service, so customers can go through the whole car purchasing journey from the comfort of their own home. This includes car deliveries, financing, insurance and more.

Meanwhile, eCommerce giant Amazon has started trialling checkoutless ‘Go’ stores, speeding up the shopping experience by eliminating the queuing process altogether. The days of waiting for a table at a restaurant are also over, as more people have grown used to booking in advance.

Hence, it’s important that we empower small businesses to remain competitive and provide them with the payment solutions to meet customer demand.

 

Global transformations

The digital payments revolution isn’t slowing down anytime soon. By 2026, only 21 percent of transactions will be made using cash.

The US might have been slow out of the gate, but it’s starting to see increased adoption of mobile payments. In-store mobile payments grew by 29% in the States last year alone.

This growth was primarily fuelled by Gen Z-ers and millennials. Latest projections show that there will be 6 million new mobile wallet users by 2025, with millennials accounting for 4 million of this figure. These two generations, the former in particular, have grown up with mobile banking.

For most Gen Z-ers, their first foray into financial services was with a challenger bank like Starling or Monzo. These banks are able to offer online features such as ‘split the bill’, fee-free withdrawals abroad and much more to cater to the modern financial needs of the younger generation.

The Middle East experienced similarly sharp increases in contactless payments. From 2019 to 2020, there was a 200% growth in contactless transactions. This shift towards a mobile-first economy in the region was inevitable; the pandemic merely accelerated this shift. A recent study showed that 80% of people living in the Middle East planned to continue using contactless payments post-pandemic, with speed and security being the main draw.

 

The future is mobile

As parts of the world now start to come out of lockdown, there’s an openness to new solutions and a widespread acceptance of new technologies.

It is now a case of when, rather than if, we’ll see a permanent shift to cashless in the future. For businesses, embracing digital innovation will be key to remaining competitive and keeping pace with consumer demand in this fast-changing payments landscape.

 

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HOW MERCHANTS CAN IMPROVE THE ONLINE PAYMENTS EXPERIENCE

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By Alan Irwin, Senior Director of Product at Global Payments UK

 

The dramatic increase in online shopping over the past 18 months has encouraged many businesses to invest in developing their omnichannel shopping experiences. The reasons vary – some are keen to capitalise on the trend of older shoppers migrating towards ecommerce and some are trying to make up for loss of sales in brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic. It is also true that many businesses are shifting their models to sell direct to consumers to avoid high marketplace fees and are therefore building their ecommerce channels for the first time.

The checkout experience is arguably the most important and delicate part of the ecommerce transaction, as it can make the difference between a happy customer likely to return, and a shopping cart abandoned out of frustration and confusion. A survey from March 2020 suggested that 88% of online shopping orders were abandoned, i.e. not converted into a purchase. A seamless, customer-centric online payment experience is therefore critically important in ensuring completed transactions. But with so many payment providers available, what should businesses be looking for when trying to keep friction to a minimum?

 

Keep clicks to a minimum

Less touchscreen interaction equals less abandonment. Adapting the payment page to fit any device and supporting popular mobile digital wallets like Google Pay ensures a seamless, stress- and hassle-free checkout experience for the customer and keeps clicks to a minimum. Friction can present itself in the most minor features – for example, when the customer is navigating the payment form, the appropriate keypad should be shown to the customer when required. It’s much easier to enter a card number using the dial pad instead of switching between QWERTY keypad layouts.

Simplifying online forms with autofill and tokenisation also significantly reduces friction at checkout and shortens necessary time taken. Ensuring checkout forms are tagged correctly for “autofill” is a great way to offer customers a single-click to input the payment, shipping, and billing data that they have stored in their browser profile. Similarly offering a guest checkout option will help convert customers who are in a hurry or looking for a one-off purchase. This can also be achieved by offering to store the payment details (called ‘tokenisation’) for express repeat and one-click purchases.

 

Make it easy to understand

A tailored payments approach can increase both domestic and international global sales. By offering a checkout experience in the customer’s language, the option to pay in their currency of choice, and use their preferred method of payment (whether it’s PayPal, Alipay or card), businesses can build loyalty quickly and put customers at ease. It is equally important for merchants to ensure they always display simple direction and information about next steps to instil confidence and prevent customer drop-off. The customer should be informed of what is happening at every stage in the process, for example, whether they will proceed to SCA (Secure Customer Authentication) next or go straight through to completion.

In addition, validating forms in real-time means merchants can highlight potential errors to the customer early on, and payment providers should provide this functionality. This could be an invalid expiry date, an incorrect digit in the card number or incorrect CVV number based on card type. When issues are only flagged at the end of the process, this forces the customer to go back through the steps to figure out the error. Real-time signposting of problems removes this potential friction and reduces the potential for a declined transaction.

 

Ensure seamless security

Merchants should work with a payment partner who offers the right blend of security and compliance management without it coming at a cost to the end-to-end checkout experience for the user. Instilling trust and security in your checkout flow while utilising the right solutions to drive seamless authentication flows will increase customer confidence and help prevent drop-off.

The greatest level of security and control comes from either utilising hosted payment fields that the
merchant can natively integrate into their checkout flow, or a hosted payment page where they can
manage the look and feel. Showcasing your brand on the checkout page with trust signals and logos also adds to building trust with the customer.

Staying ahead of regulations is also important. Secure Customer Authentication (SCA) will soon be mandatory in the UK for all eligible digital transactions, and this doesn’t have to be a friction-full process. Tools like Transaction Risk Analysis (TRA) and Exemption Optimisation Service (EOS) can quickly score transactions and drive exemptions where there is the right blend of transaction risk.

 

The devil is in the details

These three rules for successful ecommerce checkout experiences may seem straightforward, but it is important to apply them at a micro level. It can take only one minor point of friction to cause a customer to abandon their cart, and this will inevitably be replicated across other similar customers. It is critical to identify friction points early on and anticipate customer needs throughout the process. Discussing these points and any opportunities to improve customer checkout experience with your ecommerce team and payment provider is an important first step towards ensuring your entire shopping experience remains competitively seamless and loyalty is won. It may be that your payment provider cannot address them, in which case it could be time to move on in order to stay competitive.

 

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