South African Unions Protest New Minimum Wage
Thousands of union members marched to Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday to protest the new draft minimum wage, as well as proposed amendments to the law on strike action.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) took to the streets against proposals that would guarantee workers a wage of at least 20 rand per hour (about $1.66) but would exclude certain types of workers, who would make a lower wage for at least the next two years. Domestic workers – the vast majority of whom are women – would be guaranteed a minimum 15 rand per hour ($1.24), for example.
South Africa’s first ever universal minimum wage was due to go into effect on May 1, but has been delayed as it goes through a parliamentary process that includes considering public submissions made against the bill. Some of those come from unions and rights groups who say the proposed wage is still too low, and the exceptions will disproportionately affect the country’s most vulnerable workers.
India’s Supreme Court to Open Daycare Center
India’s Supreme Court has announced it will set up a daycare center for use by its staff, in a move that rights activists say could boost women’s participation in the workforce across the country.
Lawyers and other staff members have been demanding in-house childcare since 2012, when more than 100 Supreme Court advocates petitioned the court for a daycare facility. Supporters say the new creche, which is due to open on May 1, could serve as an example for other companies and institutions to help women stay in work.
Women’s participation in India’s workforce has been in decline over the past decade. Currently only 27 percent of women work in the formal economy, well below the global rate of 48.7 percent, according to estimates by the International Labour Organization. Last year, in an attempt to reverse the trend, India doubled maternity leave to six months and obliged all firms with more than 50 employees to provide childcare facilities.
Only about 10 percent of India’s lawyers are women, with less than 3 percent holding senior advocate positions in the Supreme Court.
UAE Cabinet Passes Equal Pay Legislation
As many countries were marking Equal Pay Day on Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates’ cabinet announced it has approved a bill guaranteeing equal pay for men and women.
The bill, which still needs the approval of the Federal National Council and President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, is the latest step in the government’s goal of putting the UAE among the top 25 countries in the world for gender equality by 2021.
Only around 47 percent of working-age women in the UAE participate in the labor force, and the country lags behind much of the world in overall gender parity. In its latest Global Gender Gap Report, the World Economic Forum ranked the nation 120th on a list of 144 countries.
In 2015, the UAE set up a Gender Balance Council tasked with increasing women’s roles in the country’s development, and last year launched the Gender Balance Guide, developed with the OECD, which is designed to help employers shrink the gender gap. The guide looks at HR management tools and policy guidelines, and offers tips for how to promote work-life balance and move towards equal pay and opportunity.