“Of the 3 million job losses as a result of COVID-19 in South Africa, two-thirds are women,” this is according to the new quarterly Breaking Barriers report by Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator…

Harambee is a not-for-profit social enterprise and youth employment accelerator.

It was established by a group of employers who were faced with the challenges of employing and keeping first-time workers. The organisation works with over 500 employers across the country such as Hollard, Woolworths, Nando’s, Direct Axis, Ster Kinekor, Pink n Pay and Burger King.

The quarterly report released by the organisation shows that women have been hugely affected by job losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Never has it felt more true that women need to work twice as hard to get half as far,” reveal the researchers.

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Source: Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, 2020

Women face massive barriers

The report states that “every barrier keeping young people out of work is higher and harder for young women. They have less time to search for work, more childcare responsibilities, less money to apply for jobs, less time to volunteer and network, and more risk of harassment if they do get the job interview. They are also less likely to have some of the tangible and intangible attributes valued for work, such as a high school qualification, a driver’s licence, and confidence in looking for and finding work.”

Two-thirds of 3 million job losses affected women

Recent findings from the NIDS-CRAM study reveal that women account for two-thirds of the 3 million net job losses recorded during the pandemic so far.

The National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM) is being spearheaded by 30 social science researchers from five South African universities

According to survey results released in July this year, “women’s employment fell by relatively more compared to men’s as a result of the crisis and ‘hard’ lockdown.”

  • In February 2020, or pre-crisis, 46% of women and 59% of men aged 18 and older reported being employed.
  • In April 2020, or the month of the ‘hard’ lockdown, 36% of women and 54% of men reported being employed (or having a job to return to).

This amounts to a 22% decline in the share of women employed compared to a 10% decline in the share of men employed between February and April. The gender gap in employment has therefore grown.

Source: Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, 2020


Harambee offers solutions that can help women regain a foothold in the economy including:

  • Fast tracking the safe reopening of schools
  • Using cash transfers such as the child support grant to channel money directly into the hands of young women
  • Providing cost-effective and accessible childcare facilities that free up women to be able to look for work

The organisation also suggests accelerating pathways for women into traditionally male industries, such as plumbing:

“The plumbing industry is working to challenge gender stereotypes about what work women can do. In South Africa, less than 5% of plumbers are women. The Institute of Plumbers South Africa (IOPSA) is working to unblock opportunities in the trades and has completed a programme in which young women made up 60% of the participants. The results showed that young women can perform and succeed in this traditionally male-dominated profession – they outperformed their male counterparts in both the theoretical and practical elements of the programme.”

Source: Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, 2020

Read the full report HERE