Equal pay for equal work

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Gender Equity

According to the principle set out in: Louw v Golden Arrow Bus Services – December 1999

fairness requires that persons doing equal work should receive equal pay

Thus equal pay is a concept based on fairness. In recent times, around the world there has been huge dialogue and various movements on equal pay – for equal work. Largely due to females being remunerated lower pay rates, than their male counterparts, for the same work.

It sounds simple enough, all parties should earn the same amount, for the objectively same type of work Defrenne v Sabena – then why is that females still earn less and not in South Africa alone, but the UK and Germany amongst others with 20 – 22% difference in pay between males and females?

The answer is slightly complex. Let us briefly unpack a few factors contributing towards the wage gap based on gender, and the positive strides governments around the world – especially ours are taking in reducing the gap:

Where a woman lives can make a big difference in how much she earns comparatively

(mashable.com). Additionally, the race and ethnicity of the woman may also contribute to how she is remunerated for her services – this is obviously arbitrary treatment, which goes against not only South Africa’s constitutional values, but also international norms and standards. Article 23(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) provides:

everyone without any discrimination has the right to equal pay, for equal work


To show their commitment towards equal pay – for all, the South African government ratified the ILO 100 Convention, Article 2(1) which provides:

each member state shall promote and ensure the application to all workers of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers, for work of equal value

South Africa ratified article 2(1) in Parliament, on the 30th of March 2000.

What then is our current status quo? We have these brilliant, equitable laws and provisions championing equal remuneration based on objective standards. The precedent set in Louw and the amendments to the Employment Equity Act. Sections 6(4) and 6(5) make provision for equal pay for the same work, similar work in addition to work of equal value.

With the above mentioned safety nets provided for by the law, the journey to equal remuneration for all looks feasible and this is promising. (We have provided links Louw and the amendments to EE Act below)

*EE ACT: Click here.

*Louw v Golden Arrow Bus Service (Pty) Ltd (C 37/97) [1999] ZALC 166 (23 November 1999) : Click here.

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