n South African Journal on Human Rights - Women and the right to work




Women in South Africa experience high levels of poverty, as they are forced to eke out a living on the margins of society. Main drivers of this poverty are unemployment and low-waged, menial work. Many women are found in non-standard or precarious forms of employment, including work in the informal economy, and fall outside the protection of labour law. A major factor contributing to this unenviable position is the double-working day phenomenon - a function of women's gender. Women spend inordinate amounts of time in reproductive and subsistence functions for the family and community and this often acts as a barrier to their ability to compete with men in the job market, including job creation schemes. The article addresses the question whether a constitutional right to work is necessary to address the precarious position of women in the workforce, thereby alleviating their poverty - an essential prerequisite for social justice. It analyses three forms of the right - the right to work as provision of a job, the right of access to inputs to enable women to find work, and the right to protection at work. These conceptualisations of the right are assessed in the context of international law and applied to the current position of women in the labour force. The article concludes that a right to work could play a valuable role in alleviating the plight of women, both in terms of the provision of work and access to work. Insofar as current labour law is unable fully to protect women in work, a right to work could also address those lacunae.


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