HappyRalinala.pngWomen employers have declined by 14.2% since the start of 2008, with the majority of the decline taking place during the last quarter of the recession (Q3 2009). Women employers seem to have been far more at risk than men in a recessionary environment and have closed more businesses, Absa’s SME Index indicates.

Although male employers also declined, it was less severe in percentage terms.

Women employers have decreased from 25% of all employers at the start of 2008 to 21.1% in Q2 2014.

However, the figures indicate that a degree of enterprise consolidation took place (these women did not leave the labour force): while the percentage of women who are self-employed has dropped from around 53% in 2008 to just over 44% in 2014, the number of employed women increased by 12.6% over the same period, indicating a sizeable shift to employment for women in the labour force as only 1.8% more men were employed over the period.

The number of self-employed men has increased by 8.2% from March 2008. By contrast, over 150 000 women have left self-employment for employment or for unpaid care and domestic work over the past six years.

Women in business

Women make up 44% of all people in employment in South Africa; slightly lower than the 45% figure of 2013. In South Africa,37% of all entrepreneurs are women. This is not unusual as women account for roughly 42% of entrepreneurs in richer countries, but only around 33% in developing countries for which figures are available.

“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) exceeds the percentage they constitute of the adult population, says Happy Ralinala, Head of Absa Business Banking. In South Africa only 0.9% of all adult women are employers,compared with 3.3% of all adult men.

Trades in which South African women entrepreneurs conduct their business

The biggest number of businesswomen in South Africa is in the retail trade. These 254 000 (304 000 in 2013) women form the backbone of the informal economy and often have to provide a living for their families.

The second largest number of female business owners is in the clothing industry, followed by economic and professional organisations (including trade unions and business organisations).

SME employer numbers flat, but still declining

The number of employers in the South African economy declined by 1 000 over the last quarter with an annual percentage decline of 4,6%, reflecting the tough operating environment. In eight of the last fourteen quarters, the Absa SME Index showed that the number of employers has been within 10 000 of the 750 000 mark. While the number of employers changes, the underlying trend is flat in nature as the number of employees grows.

Encouragingly, the number of employees per employer has increased from 10.9 employees per employer to 13.1 employees per employer since 2008, an indication that those employers who have survived protracted turbulent economic conditions in South Africa are once more growing employment opportunities.