Many times when having a conversation on gender equality, several people will try to counter with “but in Uganda, women and men are equal.” Lived experiences show us different, but with more women getting into the job market, data is also telling us equality still eludes us.
In a presentation this month on the status of women in the workplace in Uganda, Dr Madina Guloba shared statistics from Uganda National Household Survey Dataset (2012/13). For every Ug Shs 90,000 a woman earns, a man earns Shs 220,000, in the same occupation.
On average, women earn 41% what men are paid in Uganda.
Education qualifications didn’t matter, with women earning consistently less than men whether they had a degree or had no formal schoolings. When they had a degree and above, women earn on average Ug Shs 520,000 monthly while men with similar qualifications earn Ug Shs 700,000 per month. Post-secondary specialization has women earning Ug Shs 270,000 to men’s Ug Shs 350,000 monthly. Even with no formal schooling, men still bag on average Ug Shs 77,000 a month where women earn Ug Shs 61,000.
The UNHS 2012/13 covered 112 districts in Uganda, over a 12-month period from June 2012 to June 2013, collecting data from 6,887 households across the different regions.
The data showed that government, even though not perfect, was a better employer. Monthly median earning for women in government is Ug Shs 300,000 versus men’s Ug Shs 350,000, putting the wage gap at about 86%. In the private sector however, the wage gap is at 60% with women earning on average Ug Shs 66,000 to a man’s Ug Shs 110,000.
Policies – as in government – where an employer is mandated to pay the same amount of money to an employee, regardless of their gender, will help the economy get to pay parity. In government, salaries are calculated by scale, putting into consideration job description, required qualifications and work load. In the private sector however, we likely see more disparity because of the absence of policies and also due to contract negotiations where men usually bargain for higher salaries than women.
A Human Resource Manager of a private company said, “It is not that we have salaries for women and salaries for men. We usually have a salary range, and when asked what their salary expectation is, women will ask for the lower end of that range while men will ask for the higher end.” Companies are business corporations that will keep money where an opportunity arises. But what is the ultimate cost?
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index (2016), Uganda scores 0.704 on a scale where the highest possible is 1 (equality) and the lowest is 0 (inequality). The index covers data on education, wage equality, political participation, and health and survival. Uganda ranks at 61 overall, ahead of Kenya (63) and after Tanzania (53) while Rwanda is ranked 5 with a score of 0.8.
A gender gap affects women directly – when paid less, it is the woman that returns home with less than she should earn. But ultimately, the cost is incurred by the companies who underpay the staff and by the economy which does not protect its citizens. Underpaid staff have to look for other ways to earn and that divides their time and commitment at the work place. In such circumstances, women are unable to fully contribute to the economy and the whole country loses out.