South African women reach retirement with just 71% of men’s wealth

Gender wealth gap in South Africa is wider than global average, and senior female leaders fare worse

A global study from WTW, a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company, shows that on average women in South Africa are expected to reach retirement with just 71% of the wealth accumulated by men.

The WTW Global Gender Wealth Equity report reveals that, globally and on average, women are expected to reach retirement with 74% of the wealth accumulated by men through their working career, with the difference between countries researched ranging from 60% at worst to 90% at best.

The study also shows that this gap in wealth worsens for women in more senior jobs. In South Africa, women in senior leadership roles have only 62% of the accumulated wealth that their male counterparts enjoy on retiring, which matches the global average gap of 62%.

For mid-level professional and technical roles in South Africa, the gap is still substantial at 67%, but narrows to 81% for frontline operational roles. Globally, those figures are 69% and 89% respectively.

Melanie Trollip, Director of Work and Rewards, WTW South Africa, said: “This inequality is found across the world, but the picture in South Africa is slightly worse than average. The wealth gap is caused by a mix of factors, including the salary gap between men and women, and delayed careers for women due to family care.

“South Africa is having a welcome debate about pay equality, but pay is not the only issue, and we should broaden the scope of the discussion to include women’s overall wealth at retirement.

“More can be done to improve the whole ecosystem of work for women, and that could include adequate paid maternity leave, supporting mothers returning to work, caregiving options, and more flexible working hours.”

The report showed Nigeria had the worst overall gender wealth gap score in the study at 60%, closely followed by Argentina at 61%. At the other end of the scale, Spain has a gap of 86% and South Korea 90%. The USA has a wealth gap of 75%.

Commenting on the report’s overall global findings, Manjit Basi, Senior Director, Integrated & Global Solutions, WTW, said: “The results from our global analysis are startling. It shows that there is a gender wealth gap consistently across the 39 countries that we studied. It’s imperative that activities around gender diversity, equity and inclusion broaden to look at economic wealth at the end of women’s working careers. Pay is a fundamental factor that underlies the gender wealth gap and while addressing the gender pay gap will partially close the wealth gap, it won’t eliminate it entirely.”

The WTW Global Gender Wealth Equity report follows a collaboration between the World Economic Forum (WEF) and WTW earlier this year which released initial insights into the wealth gap in its Global Gender Gap Report.

About the survey

The WTW Wealth Equity Index (WEI), developed in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, takes a holistic view across women’s working lifetimes and attempts to quantify the extent of the gender wealth gap for a selection of countries globally. It analyzed the quantitative and qualitative aspects of gender wealth equity, with deep dives into 39 individual countries.

Previous gender studies have focused on assessing gender disparities from the single lens of pay, career, pensions and longevity or workforce representation. The reality is that the issue of gender inequity and its causes and effects are multidimensional. By focusing on accumulated wealth, we consider the effects of many intermingled inequities, including pay, career progression and events that occur during a working lifetime. And we can measure through one metric — accumulated wealth at retirement.