Gender Based Wage Violations, Unpaid Work And Inequality in Africa : A Deeper Nexus 


The African Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to reduce poverty, inequality, and promote decent work in Africa. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are critical components of these programs, and Africa has made significant progress in this area. These efforts have led to increased participation of women in the labor force, improved access to education and healthcare, and greater representation of women in political and decision-making processes. However, despite these efforts, women in Africa continue to face significant challenges in the labor market. Women are often relegated to low-paying jobs, and they are underrepresented in decision-making positions. The gender pay gap is still significant, with women earning on average 60-70% of what men earn (1). Moreover, women are disproportionately responsible for unpaid care work, such as childcare, cooking, and cleaning, which limits their ability to participate in the labor market (2). The issue of gender wage violation and unpaid work is a pervasive problem in Africa, where women are disproportionately affected by poverty and inequality. Despite the progress made in recent years, women in Africa continue to face significant challenges in the labor market, including lower pay for equal work, limited access to employment opportunities, and a disproportionate burden of unpaid care work. These references provide a range of perspectives and data on the issues facing women in the labor market in Africa, including the gender pay gap, limited access to employment opportunities, and the disproportionate burden of unpaid care work. They also highlight the progress that has been made in recent years and the efforts being made to address these challenges and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa.

The objective of this article is to elucidate the impact of these issues on individuals and society at large by providing a comprehensive understanding of the implications of gender-based wage violations and unpaid works on the subject matter and its ramifications. The findings of this research can be instrumental in formulating policies and strategies to address the challenges posed by gender-based wage discrimination and unpaid work. The paper is organized into two sections. Section 1 focuses on the implications of gender wage violation and unpaid work in Africa, and Section 2 provides concluding remarks and policy recommendations.

  1. Implications of Gender-Base Wage Violations and Unpaid Work for Inequality in African

The issues of gender wage violation and unpaid work are particularly pronounced in Africa. Many countries in the region have laws that mandate equal pay for equal work, but these laws are often not enforced. Women are often paid less than men for the same work, and they are underrepresented in high-paying jobs (5). The lack of transparency and accountability in wage setting processes further exacerbates the problem (3). Unpaid work is another major challenge facing women in Africa. Women spend a significant amount of time on unpaid care work, which limits their ability to participate in the labor market. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), women in Africa spend an average of 4.8 hours per day on unpaid care work, compared to 2.8 hours for men (2). This lack of recognition and valuation of unpaid care work perpetuates gender inequality and limits women’s economic empowerment.

Wage violations, unpaid work, vulnerability, poverty, and inequality are interconnected issues that disproportionately affect workers in Africa. Wage violations, including non-payment of wages, delayed payment, and payment below the wage, are common in many African countries. This leads to unpaid work, which can force workers to work long hours without compensation, further exacerbating their vulnerability.

Wage laws are intended to protect workers from exploitation by setting a floor for wages that employers are legally required to pay. However, many African countries have weak or non-existent wage laws, leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), only 17 out of 55 African countries have a national wage law (4). Even in countries with wage laws, enforcement is often inadequate, allowing employers to flout the laws with impunity. Unpaid work is another issue that disproportionately affects women. Women are more likely to work in informal jobs, such as domestic work and agriculture, where payment is not always guaranteed (2). Additionally, women are more likely to take on care work, such as childcare and household chores, which are often unpaid (5). The combination of low wages and unpaid work means that women workers in Africa often earn less than their male counterparts and are more likely to live in poverty.

Unpaid work also has a significant impact on women’s well-being and economic empowerment. Women who spend more time on unpaid work have fewer opportunities for education and employment and are more likely to experience poverty and social exclusion (6). Unpaid work also perpetuates gender stereotypes and reinforces the idea that women’s work is not valuable or deserving of compensation. Gender inequality remains a persistent challenge in many African countries, affecting various aspects of women’s lives, including their economic empowerment.

In many African countries, gender-based wage discrimination is prevalent, with women often earning less than their male counterparts for similar work. This violation of gender wage standards perpetuates economic disparities and hinders women’s financial independence. The causes of gender wage violation in Africa are multifaceted and include societal norms, discriminatory hiring practices, lack of enforcement mechanisms, and limited access to education and skills development opportunities for women. The unequal distribution of unpaid work restricts women’s participation in paid employment, reducing their earning potential and economic independence. It also perpetuates gender stereotypes, limiting women’s access to education, training, and career advancement opportunities.

Gender wage violations and unpaid work exacerbate gender inequality, perpetuate poverty among women, and limit their ability to invest in education, healthcare, and other essential needs. It also reinforces traditional gender roles and stereotypes, further entrenching gender disparities in society. Women in Africa bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid work, including household chores, caregiving responsibilities, and community work. This unpaid work is often undervalued and invisible, leading to women’s exclusion from formal labor markets and limited opportunities for economic advancement.

  1. Summary and Policy Pathways


Addressing gender wage violations and unpaid work is crucial for achieving gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in Africa. By implementing the recommended policy interventions, governments can create an enabling environment that promotes fair wages, reduces unpaid work burdens, and empowers women to participate fully in the economy. Such efforts will not only benefit women but also contribute to sustainable economic growth and social development in the region.

Policy pathways

To address the gendered nature of unpaid work, governments should implement policies that promote shared responsibility for unpaid work between men and women. These policies may include affordable childcare services, parental leave provisions, and initiatives to challenge traditional gender roles and norms.

  • Governments should strengthen wage laws and ensure that they are enforced fairly and consistently. This could include increasing the wage, improving enforcement mechanisms, and providing penalties for employers who violate wage laws.
  • Policymakers should initiate a Universal Basic Income (UBI) policy that could help address the persistent gender pay gap by providing a basic income that is not tied to employment or earnings. This could help reduce the financial penalties for women who take time off work to care for children or other family members.
  • Governments and employers should work to address unpaid work by providing compensation for care work and other forms of unpaid labor. This could include implementing policies such as paid family leave, subsidized childcare, and flexible work arrangements.
  • Governments and employers should work to increase access to education and training for women, particularly in non-traditional fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This could include providing scholarships, mentorship programs, and on-the-job training.
  • Governments and civil society organizations should work to address social and cultural norms that perpetuate gender inequality and unpaid work. This could include launching public awareness campaigns, providing education and training on gender equality, and promoting men’s involvement in care work.
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Bin Joachem Meh is a Free Enterprise Associate in the Department of Economics Affair at the Nkafu Policy Institute. He is a Ph.D. Fellow in Labour and Development Economics in the University of Bamenda.


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