Female workers still paid less than male colleagues

Thursday March 8 2018

By Anne Kidmose Jensen @TheCitizenTz news@thecitizen.co.tz

The pay gap is still open

Tanzanian women, like other women across the globe are generally paid less than their male co-workers. But why exactly does this happen? Is it because there are no strict regulations to ensure equal pay or that women lack the skills to compete for the same wages?

Dar es Salaam. Lilian Machera recalls signing her contract as a junior employee and quickly accepting the salary on offer: “I just signed it,” she says.  Right afterwards her male counterpart was offered the same amount, but refused, and instead had the chance to negotiate his wage.

“Now I have the experience, so I cannot negotiate for less. Back then I was afraid because I was not confident enough,” 39 year old Machera says.

Today she is the coordinator of the Female Future programme which trains women to compete with their male colleagues for equal pay as well as leadership positions. But the gap between male and female salaries still exists.

The average Tanzanian man earns 39 per cent more than what the average woman receives in total, according to  estimated earned income data from The Global Gender Gap Report 2017  published by World Economic Forum. Over 144 countries were ranked on gender equality.

Tanzania has the 24th largest gender pay gap out of 34 other African countries.  Tanzania just misses the top 10 countries with the most pay equality between genders. Liberia comes out number one for having the lowest gap in salaries between men and women while Algeria ranks lowest. An Algerian man earns about $1,725 more than his female co-worker per month. In Tanzania, men make an average of about $76 more than women.  So for a woman earning Sh1 million per month, the average male employee would earn Sh389,450 more every month.

If the woman had worked in neighbouring Rwanda the pay gap would statistically have been significantly smaller, according to the app “Gender Gap Africa” that presents the report from an African perspective. Here, the woman would perform a job which a man statistically would be paid $24 more to do. 

A gap that matters

The inequality in pay is more than an individual’s economic obstacle, stresses Ms Pike Mwambipile, who is Executive Director at Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA).

“A woman is supposed to be paid equal to or above a man, because it is women who are supporting households and the families. They need to have a solid economy,” she says, implying that a woman’s pay has implications for her children and future.

The social and economic disadvantages of a gender pay gap are some of the reasons it ought to be highlighted, argues the founder and Executive Chairman of World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab.

“To build future economies that are both dynamic and inclusive, we must ensure that everyone has equal opportunity,” he states in the report.

The fact that a Tanzanian woman earns 39 per cent less than her male counterparts implies that women are not as big a part of the workforce as men that they receive a lower salary and that men are overrepresented in positions as legislators, senior officials and managers.


The well-paid professions

Equal pay in Tanzania is determined by the law, and in the Employment and Labour Relations Act of 2004 it is stated that every employer ought to guarantee equal pay for work of equal value as well as promote equal opportunity in the workplace. Why then does the pay gap still exist?

Ms Mwambipile from TAWLA points to the difference in professions taken up by men and women.

“In recent years we are seeing an increase in enrollment into school and higher tertiary education, but when it comes to professions, women don’t choose the professions that offer us jobs,” she explains.

Among the country’s employees in the formal sector, only 17 per cent are women who work in the private, profit-making business sector, according to the 2015 Employment and Earnings Survey. It was conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics on behalf of the Tanzanian government and maps the employees in the nation’s formal sector.

In 2015 the women who were employed in the formal sector made up 37 per cent while the men took up 63 per cent of the formal jobs in both the private and public sector. And particularly in the profit-making institutions in the private sector, women were a minority. While this sector accounted for over 50 per cent of the employees, 68 per cent of these were men while 32 per cent were women.

Women need confidence

Ms Mwambipile argues that women face more structural challenges in the quest to obtain a well-paid job. Among these are family obligations and maternity. Furthermore, some women are told they can have a job only if they sleep with the manager, she explains.

“We need to ensure that both private and public institutions have a policy that promotes equality. The other thing is for women to have more confidence and to stand up for themselves,” she says.

Lilian Machera agrees. She started out as a teacher, before she moved into banking and then continued to her job as a programme coordinator for Female Future with the Association of Tanzania Employers. Bridging the pay gap is all about confidence, she argues.

“Women must make themselves competitive and should be able to stand on their feet. You have to work really hard,” she says.