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Maternal Policies and Working Women in South Africa: The Beginnings of a Family Policy

Matthias, Carmel Rose

Little research has been undertaken to show how women in South Africa are integrating their work and family lives. The purpose of this study was to generate data on one area which could facilitate such integration, namely, maternity benefits. Although employers in South Africa are prohibited from employing pregnant women for one month prior to and two months after confinement, they are not compelled by law to transfer women to less strenuous work during pregnancy or to reinstate these women after the enforced period of leave. Whilst the state has not legislated such transfers or reinstatement, they have urged employers to be "sympathetic" to requests for transfers and reinstatement.

The study was designed to provide an exploratory and descriptive perspective on maternity-related rights and benefits in the textile industrial sector in selected areas of Natal. Such research data is essential for the purposes of policy advocacy and policy development. Data for this study were collected through the use of the social survey method. The main part of the study included structured interviews with all textile employers in the geographical areas of the study who employed more than ten women. The subsidiary part of the study included structured interviews with selected female employees who had become pregnant whilst working in the textile industry in the area of the study. The purposive sampling method was used. Forty-six textile employers were interviewed and 301 employee interviews were conducted at 31 of these establishments.

It emerged from the study that the governmental policy of merely requesting employers to provide benefits has not been effective. In nearly all cases where a maternity benefits package was provided this was as a direct result of pressures to which employers found themselves subject. Unions were the major factor in supplying such pressure. However, even where maternity benefit packages did eventuate, there were two important factors that inhibited their availability. Firstly, women lacked sufficient education about the benefits and the ability to assert their rights sufficiently. Secondly, even where these difficulties could be overcome, no adequate legal machinery exists for the enforcement of the women's maternity-related rights.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Kamerman, Sheila B.
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 26, 2015
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