Census 2011 showed that 15 percent of South African households have female breadwinners where the married woman is the head of the household.
This change in roles is the result of the 2008/9 economic recession. Men are more commonly employed in industries - like construction, automotive, transport or manufacturing which were greatly affected by downsizings during the recession.
“While the average South African household is still headed by males, it seems that there is an increasing trend of women taking on this role. The reason for this could be attributed to the rising unemployment figures of 25.60% in the second quarter of 2013 locally as well as the fact that their earning potential within the workplace has increased,” said Laurence Hillman, managing director of 1Life.
Loane Sharpe, labour economist for Adcorp said that due to the rise of capitalism and people being replaced with machines in companies there was a decrease the demand for physical labour in the workplace. This offered more opportunities for women in the public sector, finance and retail.
As more women become breadwinners more are working for themselves and relying less on their partners. Sharpe said the reason for this shift is because women have become more skilled over time.
“In the past, women mainly worked in teaching or nursing fields. Recently there is an increase of women in management positions and more women are entering the medicine, law and finance sectors. It is good for the country’s economy because women’s skills are no longer a wasted resource,” said Sharpe.
How does this impact household incomes
Sharpe added that there is a trend for men from generation Y to opt for flexible working hours to have more time to spend with household duties and their families. Because there is more balance in the family duties, there is also a healthy balance in parenting.
“Now with more women working, more households have a dual income which is a positive development for the financial situations of households,” said Sharpe.
Hillman added that women should further secure their family’s financial wellbeing with life insurance as it will enable them to secure their assets and ensure that their family’s financial stability is not jeopardised should they lose their jobs.
“You can find a policy where the benefits are tailored to your specific needs for your current life stage which provides value for money,” said Hillman.