Women are worse off than men during the pandemic

by | Aug 11, 2021 | Personal Finance

​Covid -19 has had had a negative, unbalanced economic impact on women, in comparison to men.

Women across the world (not only in South Africa) generally earn  less than men who do the same work.  According to recent research released from advisory firm PWC, women in top leadership roles at SA’s largest firms are earning 72c for every R1 earned by their male counterparts.

Charnel Ernstzen, Managing Director of National Debt Advisors says it is evident that women were hardest hit by salary interruptions since the first lockdown in 2020, whether it be in a reduction in work hours, job losses or retrenchments. “At NDA, we have had many of our female clients report a change in circumstance with regards to their income. A loss of income obviously affects someone’s ability to service their debt as well as their access to funds for everyday living expenses. “

The 2021 Old Mutual Savings & Investment Monitor (OMSIM) research survey published on 4 August (that delves into the behaviours and attitudes of South Africa’s working metropolitan households), shows that as many as 63% of the women surveyed said they are feeling highly stressed (vs 53% of men). Only 26% of women feel confident about the SA economy, while 40% of men have a more positive outlook.

Ernstzen believes that this has much to do with slower recovery in employment for women, than men. “ More of our male clients report being back to pre-Covid working hours, than our female clients. As in most countries across the globe, women bore the brunt of change in the Covid affected schooling system, which saw women having to sacrifice work opportunities to stay home and oversee their children and their staggered, learn-from-home schooling schooling schedule. Gender inequality in the work space has definitely been exacerbated during the pandemic, with women once again getting the short end of the stick.”

However, Ernstzen says she is heartened by the fact that more and more women seem to have taken the bull by the horns during this pandemic, and followed their entrepreneurial spirit. “The dire  need to find additional income, has had spurred women on to start their own businesses, whether as a primary source of income or a side hustle. This means that more and more women are taking charge of their finances.”

“It is obvious from our client interaction at NDA, that women carry more emotional and historical baggage when it comes to money. Not many  South African women grew up in households where they were exposed to positive conversations about money. Mothers may have managed the money, but fathers were “in charge” of it. With more and more women single – handedly running households and adding significantly to a two – income household, that narrative is changing”


In the spirit of Women’s Month, here are some tips financial tips for females:

  • Become informed

Make the effort to become informed about money via various platforms. Read articles. Listen to podcasts. Watch videos. Ask questions. The more  informed you are, the better decisions you will make.


  • Make the effort to be involved in every aspect of money in the home.

Ensure that you are aware of the household finances. Make sure that you know all the details of your debt, your accounts, your home loans and your insurances. Many women, who stay in the background of money matters in the home, find themselves in the dark when death, divorce and separation from a partner comes around.


  • Draw up a budget and speak to your family about it.

A budget will not only be beneficial to your finances – but  it will also give you a sense of control and increase  your confidence. If your budget is not working  – have the confidence to discuss this with your partner and the rest of the family. Just because our parents never spoke to us about money, does not mean that we shouldn’t be speaking to our partners and our children about it.


  • Set goals and start saving

Whether you have investments, an ordinary savings account or even if you just save your money in a hidden jar – set a savings goal and work towards it.  An amount of as little as R50/m can start a good  savings habit.  If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is the importance of savings, especially in case of an emergency.


  • Get a money buddy

For whatever reasons, you may not feel comfortable to speak to your husband/ partner about money. However, it is important that become  comfortable speaking about money. Find someone who you can trust to speak to about your finances  – as well as who you can learn from.


  • Make the effort to un-clutter your finances like you do your closet

When clothes don’t fit or we haven’t worn them in a while – we sort through them and give them away, to make space which can be better utilized. We should be doing the same with our finances. Get out your  statements and identify insurance duplications, unused subscriptions and unnecessary service fees and bank charges.


  • Get rid of your debt

Getting rid of even the smallest amount of debt, frees up cash which can be injected into savings or used for everyday living expenses. If your debt is manageable, and you are able to tackle it on your own, it is advisable to use one of the following methods.


Snowball method:

You start paying off your smaller debts first. Psychologically, this   method works well – because there is a real sense of achievement when you can square up an account, close it and move onto the next one.


Avalanche method:

With this method, you pay off your  debt with the highest interest rate,  first.  Then move onto the next one. You’ll save money in the long run by keeping interest charges under control.

  • First, make the minimum payments on all of your debts.
  • Then put any  additional money towards the debt with the highest interest rate.
  • Do this until the highest -interest account is paid off.
  • Thereafter, take the minimum payment you were paying on the first debt, as well as any additional cash, and put that toward the debt with the next-highest interest.


Debt counselling

If you are skipping payments and find that you do not have enough money for your living expenses, you might want to consider the NCR –monitored process of debt review. It is vitally important that you only use a debt counsellor who is credible, and registered with the NCR. Consumers who run into problems with debt counselling, often do so more because of their choice of debt counsellor, than the process of debt review.

Ernstzen concludes: “Even in the face of economic inequality, persistent discrimination, lack of support, opportunities and resources – women continue to rise to the occasion by  showing resilience , creativity and an innate strength that can only be admired.”

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