Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Nearly 12% of the South African workforce spent more than 60 hours a week on the job. This is despite SA’s labour laws prohibiting more than 45 hours a week.

Mining and retail are the two sectors in which you are likely to work the hardest in SA‚ according to a composite review of professions around the world.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) says of the almost 50 countries sampled‚ SA was the fifth hardest working country with workers spending an average of 43.3 hours a week on the job. Looking only at jobs in the formal sectors‚ the OECD found the mining industry to be in the lead with workers putting in an average of 45.3 hours a week.

TimesLIVE spoke to Desire Mokoena‚ a mine production planner from Mpumalanga, who said mineworkers‚ particularly those in production‚ worked 12 hour shifts‚ mostly six days a week. Sharing her perspective from a woman in mining‚ Mokoena said that while the career could be rewarding‚ it was not always conducive for women.

Nearly 12% of the South African workforce spent more than 60 hours a week on the job. This is despite SA’s labour laws prohibiting more than 45 hours a week.

She gave an example of sanitation for women working underground‚ concerns about personal safety‚ and the physicality of the work.

"As you advance forward [in the mine], you leave the toilets behind. As a woman‚ what are the chances of me having to go back to the [entrance] far away to walk to the bathrooms? It is not safe anymore. There are illegal miners underground so anything can happen. So normally the women would find a corner at the pillars and just relieve themselves … It is dark‚ no one can see you‚ but it is unhygienic‚" she said‚ adding there were no breaks in between the shifts.

Ten hours were spent on labour while the other two hours were spent travelling to and from the operations site underground.

"Underground‚ a lot of things need manpower. You pull cables‚ get onto a high machine, and remember‚ the ground is not level. They say it’s uncomfortable for women. Other women end up having back problems because of such things‚" said Mokoena.

According to the OECD‚ wholesale and retail came in second with workers clocking in an average of 44.7 hours‚ followed by finance and business services at 43.7, and transport and communication at 43.6 hours.

Lily Kok, who has years of retail experience, said, "Retail is one of the easiest industries to get into after matric. When you’re looking for a job‚ in most cases‚ retail would be the first to welcome you into the working field. So I think that’s the first option that people go for."

With a six-day work week‚ averaging eight hours a day‚ Kok spends about 48 hours a week at work. Most of these hours are spent on her feet. "The only rewarding thing I would say is seeing your customers happy and pleased with the service you have given them‚" she said‚ suggesting there was not a lot of financial gain with the job.

60 hours a week

The OECD said nearly 12% of the South African workforce spent more than 60 hours a week on the job. This is despite SA’s labour laws prohibiting more than 45 hours a week and no more than 10 hours in overtime.

Quoting research from the Stellenbosch University’s Bureau for Economic Research‚ the OECD said men worked the hardest. "SA’s hardest workers are black men younger than 45 in a semi-skilled occupation and lucky enough to have a permanent job in a country with high unemployment."

The study said women were more likely to work shorter hours‚ because they "tend to be more educated and work in the professional sector".

But knocking off from work does not necessarily mean they are over for the day. For many women‚ leaving work means the beginning of another task — housekeeping.

"South African women without a housekeeper spend 183 minutes a day on housework‚ as opposed to 75 minutes for men. Women living with children also spent an average of 87 minutes a day taking care of them‚ compared to men‚ who spent seven minutes‚" the OECD said.

Working hours were shorter in more economically thriving provinces such as Gauteng and the Western Cape. These provinces had a high concentration of highly skilled workers.

According to the report: "The average working hours in these more affluent provinces is affected by migration from other provinces. The Eastern Cape also had some of the lowest working hours‚ but that was because so few people had permanent employment in the impoverished province."

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