The Absence of Gender in South Africa’s New Industrial Policy Framework

by NGANDU, S., 2008
Agenda, 22:78, 199-207

Though the new National Industrial Policy Framework (NIPF) is a step in the right direction towards diversifying the South African economy away from its mineral dependency, it is silent on gender issues. South Africa’s industrial policy has never been gender sensitive. This has its roots in early industrialisation that was centred on the mining sector and the heavy resource processing industries that grow around it which were – and still are – male dominated. The policies that were implemented then entrenched an industrial structure that has remained static and gender-biased. Though there has been a growing awareness of the need to have gender-inclusive economic policies, it is argued that the failure of the new industrial policy framework to explicitly recognise gender relates to the way in which economists view men and women. Industrial policy like other economic policies tends to be influenced by economic theory, macroeconomics which focuses on non-gendered aggregates and microeconomics which assumes that men and women are homogenous in their preferences and endowments. This view tends to lead to economic policies that are gender blind. In the case of industrial policy, selecting sectors for intervention without a gender lens can further entrench the inequalities that exist between men and women at the industrial level. It is not sufficient for the industrial policy framework to assume that by targeting services sectors – such as business process outsourcing and hotel catering (tourism) – which tend to have a relatively large number of women, there is no need to outline explicitly how the policy will help reduce gender inequalities and increase the participation of women in the industrialisation process. This focus argues that, in order to fundamentally change the status quo, gender issues in industrial development should not ‘piggy back’ on major polices but should be integrated from the outset.