This is according to Absa’s SME Index for the second quarter of 2014, indicating that the number of self-employed men has increased by 8.2 per cent since 2008 while over 150,000 women have left self-employment in order to either take up employment, unpaid care or domestic work over the past six years.
Absa said that women seemed to have been far more vulnerable than men in a recessionary environment and have closed more businesses.
However, the index also revealed that the numbers of employed women increased by 12.6 per cent while the number of men only increased by 1.8 per cent, showing that more women are joining the country’s labour force.
“This probably reflects a shift where women are now working in traditionally more male orientated jobs such as motor mechanics. As competition eases in the informal retail sector, it is also likely that the chances of worthwhile profits will actually increase,” said Mike Schüssler, an economist partnered with Absa.
According to ABSA, the number of employers in South Africa had declined by 1000 over the last quarter, and annually by 4.6 per cent due to the country’s challenging operating environment.
On the other hand, the number of employers per employer has grown from 10.9 to 13.1 since 2008, indicating that employers who survived the country’s tough economic conditions are growing employment opportunities.
Happy Ralinala, head of Absa Business Banking, explained that even though South African women now make up 37 per cent of all entrepreneurs, it is not an unusual trend as women in developed countries only account for 42 per cent of entrepreneurs, while women in developing countries make up 33 per cent of entrepreneurs.
“As women are also typically the main caregivers in families, no country in the world exists where the percentage of women in business (or work in general) makes up more than the percentage they constitute of the adult population. In South Africa only 0.9 per cent of all women adults are employers while 3.3 per cent of men are,” she said.
ABSA said that most businesswomen in South Africa are in the retail trade, forming the backbone of the informal economy. The second largest number of females is in the clothing industry, followed by economic and professional organisations.
(WATCH VIDEO: Women make up a small percentage of the workforce in South Africa)
In addition, women are increasingly contributing a larger percentage of taxable income every year. Absa explained that even though fewer women are self-employed, more are however obtaining an education and entering higher paid employment.
“The flux of the labour market shows that women are gaining in employment overall but are losing out in the micro business of self-employment. The Absa SME Index has previously pointed to a dire need for more entrepreneurs in South Africa however fostering a culture of entrepreneurship amongst women specifically is proving to be even more critical. We desperately need to support and encourage the growth of women starting and successfully sustaining their own businesses,” concluded Ralinala.
(READ MORE: S.Africa’s women earn almost 20% less of what men make )