SA’s gender pay gap shrinks dramatically

By Carol Paton for Business Day 

The gender pay gap has shrunk dramatically, especially among low paid workers since the end of apartheid, but women at the top still face discrimination, a study by a University of Cape Town researcher has found.

In 1997, at the bottom end of the earnings spectrum, men earned 60% more than women. By 2014 this had diminished to 7%, said economist Jacqueline Mosomi in a paper based on her PhD thesis, published by the UN’s University World Institute for Development Economics Research.

The change is mostly attributable to the implementation of new minimum wages. Minimum wages for domestic and farm workers were introduced in November 2002. Women have also had better access to education since democracy, and marriage and fertility rates have declined.

“In general, in SA gender wage inequality was high because there were more women in low-paying occupations. There has been a substantial decline due to the implementation of minimum wages,” said Mosomi.

But at the top, despite having more years of education than men, women remain under-represented at senior levels and occupy jobs that are lower-paying. Mosomi’s paper found that more affluent and educated women were big beneficiaries of employment equity legislation and the gender wage gap dropped sharply from 48% in 1993 reaching 18% in 2014.

The Employment Equity Act, which requires companies to submit plans to the department of labour to bring the workforce in line with demographic categories, was passed in 1998.

“Women who already had high-quality skills were able to benefit from employment equity legislation but once that effect had taken place, the trend began to reverse. Now, even though women have more education than men they receive lower returns,” she says.

Mosomi says that the wage gap at the top does indicate discrimination but is also due to the type of work women do, which is often more administrative and less technical than occupations dominated by men.

Women in the middle of the earnings spectrum have benefited least in the post-apartheid era. At the mean — that is the half-way point in the wage distribution spectrum — the gender wage gap has hardly shifted. Men still earn 23% to 35% more than women. Mosomi says that other research has found that most occupations that fall into the median earning still tend to be male-dominated.

These jobs include elementary, service, craft or operational work. Gender analysis has shown that these occupations and the industries in which they are located are still dominated by men.

At the Jobs Summit held last October, Business Unity SA (Busa) undertook to encourage its members to voluntarily disclose the gap between the top and bottom paid as well as the gender pay gap. Busa said it would do this with a view to making disclosure compulsory over the next 12 months.

3M to cut 2 000 jobs

By Nathaniel Meyersohn for CNN

3M, which makes Post-It notes and Scotch tape, is cutting 2 000 jobs around the world.

The industrial manufacturer made the announcement Thursday as it reported weak sales during its most recent quarter and darkened its outlook for the year ahead.

Sales slid 5% to $7.9 billion last quarter compared to the same time period a year ago. Although sales ticked up in the United States, 3M’s largest region, sales dropped more than 9% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Those areas make up 3M’s second largest region. Sales in Asia also fell more than 7% compared to a year ago.

“The first quarter was a disappointing start to the year for 3M,” said Mike Roman, 3M chief executive officer, in a statement. “We continued to face slowing conditions in key end markets.”

In addition, 3M slashed its full-year guidance.

3M said the job cuts, which represent around 2% of its global workforce, will save the company up to $250 million annually. 3M will spread out the cuts across different business divisions and geographies “with emphasis on corporate structure and underperforming areas.”

The stock sank more than 10% in early trading Thursday, which drove down the Dow.

Weak pen, lighter sales knock Bic

By Myles McCormick for Financial Times

Flagging sales of pens in India and lighters in North America knocked revenues at French stationery maker Bic at the beginning of 2019.

The company, known for its ubiquitous biros and razors, said sales had fallen 2 per cent on a comparative basis to €415m in the first quarter of the year as its overall trading environment remained “challenging”.

Pre tax income dropped 18 per cent to €55m as South American exchange rates and rising raw material costs weighed on its margins.

Shares in Bic fell as much as 10 per cent in early Thursday trading, making it one of the worst performers on the Stoxx 600 index — second only to Finnish electronics group Nokia, whose shares plunged after an unexpected first-quarter loss.

“After a strong 2018 fourth quarter, and while the overall trading environment remains challenging, 2019 started with soft results impacted by stationery in India and lighters in the US,” said Gonzalve Bich, Bic chief executive.

“However, we maintained or grew market share in our three categories, and regained momentum in shavers,” he added.

In India, Cello Pens, which Bic bought in 2015, saw a double digit drop off in sales as it sought to reduce shipments to so-called “superstockists”. Global stationery sales fell 6 per cent on a comparative basis, stripping out the impact of acquisitions and divestments.

Lighter sales fell 10 per cent in North America on the back of inventory adjustments by wholesalers and a declining market. Globally, lighter sales were down 6 per cent on a comparative basis.

Its shaver business did better, with strong eastern European and Russian performance driving a 10 per cent rise on a comparative basis.

The company expects first quarter “headwinds” to lessen over the year and retained its full year financial outlook of a slight growth in sales.

Look out for these five WhatsApp scams

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

WhatsApp has become the most prominent messaging platform across many parts of the world, offering a range of features which enable faster and more convenient communication.

The application also boasts impressive security, with end-to-end encryption delivering secure communication.

Due to its high rate of adoption, however, it has also become a targeted platform for scammers and attacks which aim to either compromise the user’s details or infect their device with malware.

The nature of these scams and attacks is constantly evolving, but we have listed five of the most prominent and dangerous scams currently in circulation below.

SIM-swop takeover
SIM-swop fraud is one of the biggest threats to South African WhatsApp users, considering the meteoric rise in the number of cases reported over the last year.

By committing SIM-swop fraud and taking ownership of your number, a user can easily and instantly install WhatsApp on their own smartphone and log in with your account.

The two-factor authentication message will be sent to the number used to log in, which the attacker will now have access to.

From here, they can easily scam your contacts to divulge information or send them money by impersonating you.

This type of attack is also a serious threat to the security of platforms which use SMS two-factor authentication – including many banking apps.

Users should check immediately with their cellphone provider if reception on their cellphone is lost for no apparent reason, as this is the first sign that SIM-swop fraud has been committed.

Verification request
This type of scam is spread through compromised accounts, and usually comes from a known contact who has had their account compromised.

Victims will receive a message from a user in their WhatsApp contact list who asks them to send them their WhatsApp verification code.

If they do this, scammers will have access to everything they need to access the user’s Whatsapp account and will take over their number.

From the compromised profile, scammers will either ask the victim’s contacts for verification codes to access their profile or they will pose as the victim and ask for mobile money payments.

The easiest way to avoid this scam is to never divulge your WhatsApp verification code and be wary about sending your contacts money if they are acting strangely over WhatsApp.

WhatsApp Gold
WhatsApp Gold is a well-known hoax which has been around for years, although it still seems to resurface occasionally and catches out many people.

The scam is a simple phishing attack which comprises hoax messages stating that WhatsApp has launched a new upgraded messaging service called WhatsApp Gold.

Often this premium version is advertised as free and including features such as new themes and free voice calls.

The message contains a link to download the “latest secret update” for WhatsApp Gold, which actually leads to malicious software being installed on the victim’s device.

This malware could do anything from steal your information to spy on your messages and communications.

Avoiding scams like this is easy if you follow best practices and never click on unknown links or download unverified software onto your device.

Phishing with vouchers
This is similar to the WhatsApp Gold scam, but these messages are usually sent from a number impersonating a fake contact.

The message generally states that users have won a free voucher for a local supermarket in return for them filling in a short survey.

However, the link contained in this message goes to a fake website which impersonates the supermarket’s web page.

Once users have entered their details into this website, their information has been compromised and is fed straight to the scammers.

WhatsApp is not the only platform where this scam takes place, as this is one of the most widespread and organised types of scams operating around the world.

Malicious spy apps
During your online browsing or within a WhatsApp message, you may find a link to download a WhatsApp “spy app”.

These applications claim to be able to see what your contacts are saying to each other, along with giving you the ability to intercept their pictures, voice messages, and images.

Of course there is no way to intercept WhatsApp messages in this way as all conversations are end-to-end encrypted.

Instead, these applications usually either install malware on the victim’s device or sign them up to subscription content services which charge exorbitant fees.

It is also important to realise that the Google Play Store is not infallible and can contain many malware-infested “WhatsApp Spy” apps.

By Cheryl Kahla for The South African

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a UK cyber security watchdog, recently released their list of the most-used passwords on the Internet.

A quick look at the most common passwords is enough to know that a lot of work still needs to be done to educate computer users about cybersecurity.

The most common password was ‘123456’ which was beat out by ‘123456789’, ‘qwerty’, ‘password’ and ‘1111111’.

While these common passwords are incredibly problematic, the most pervasive problem for home internet users was a combination of these easily guessed passwords, and the fact they were being re-used across multiple sites.

Re-using passwords on multiple platforms
Password re-use is problematic as a security breach on one site could compromise a users security on every other site the password is in use.

NCSC technical director Ian Levy explains:

“We understand that cybersecurity can feel daunting to a lot of people, but the National Cyber Security Centre has published lots of easily applicable advice to make you much less vulnerable.

He added that re-using a password is a major risk which can be avoided because “nobody should protect sensitive data with something that can be guessed”.

Favourite celebrities
Sports teams and first names are another common choices for passwords with ‘Ashley’ the most common name used as a password and ‘Liverpool’ the most common premier league football team name used as a password. ‘Blink182’ was the most common band.

“Using hard-to-guess passwords is a strong first step, and we recommend combining three random but memorable words. Be creative and use words memorable to you, so people can’t guess your password,” added Levy.

There are several password management tools available that can generate unique passwords and store them in a central place for users who want to take their online security to the next level.

So far the effects of artificial intelligence (AI) have been slow to reveal themselves in businesses in South Africa but the scale of the oncoming change is starting to become apparent overseas.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “AI’s influence is growing in the workplace and will bring substantial change to South African offices in the next few years as machine learning, task automation and robotics are increasingly used in business.”

The ability of computers to learn, rather than be programmed, puts a wide range of complex roles within reach of automation for the first time.

Bots and virtual assistants

As machine-learning trained systems gain the ability to understand speech and language, so the prospect of automated chatbots is becoming a reality.

One example is UK electronics retailer Dixons Carphone, which used the Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services to create a conversational bot.

Google demonstrated the potential of chatbots last year with its demo of its Duplex system. Duplex rang up businesses such as a restaurant and a hairdressers booking an appointment while sounding and behaving enough like a human.

“Household names are also muscling into the area of creating a virtual assistant for the enterprise space like Amazon’s Alexa for Business. With many AI-assisted technologies, the aim of using chatbots and virtual assistants appears to be either making existing employees more effective or replacing manual roles,“ noted Galloway-Gaul.

Workplace sensor technology and analytics

Huge amounts of data can now be collected from inexpensive sensors applied to smart decisions. For example, South African workplace sensing technology company MakeSense allows businesses to accurately assess just howmuch of their workplaces they actually use, likely saving a lot of money in the process.

It works by placing small sensors around the office which analyses peoples’ movement.

“Workspace occupancy sensing technology helps businesses understand how desks, meeting rooms and break out spaces are used in extraordinary detail. For example on average 40% of people don’t turn up to meetings so many meetings room are probably too big and are wasted space and cost.”

Machine vision in the workplace

Machine vision is an area of AI that could allow the automation of many manual roles that until recently would have been considered too complex for a computer system to handle.

A case is point is Amazon Go, a grocery store where shoppers just pick up what they want and walk out of the shop with their goods. The system works by using cameras dotted throughout the store to track what each shopper picks up. The shopper is charged when they leave, via an Amazon app on their smartphone.

Robots in the workplace

Robots are nothing new in the workplace, having been a fixture in car manufacturing plants for decades.

“But what’s different today is that robots are beginning to be used for less repetitive and predictable tasks. Robots can increasingly cope with a greater deal of uncertainty in their environment, broadening the tasks they can take on and opening the possibility of working more closely alongside humans.” Galloway-Gaul noted. Amazon again is leading the way in using robots to improve efficiency inside its warehouses. Its knee-high warehouse robots carry products to human pickers who select items to be sent out.

Robotic process automation

Back office tasks like data entry, accounting, human resources and supply-chain management are full of repetitive and semi-predictable tasks.

Increasingly, robotic process automation (RPA) software is used to capture the rules that govern how people process transactions, manipulate data and send data to and from computer systems, in an attempt to then use those rules to build an automated platform that can perform those roles.

“Change is therefore coming to all workspaces all around the world; the trick will be getting AI to help business grow and work well with humans,” Galloway-Gaul concludes.

By Allana Akhtar for Business Insider US 

Being on your phone at work, once the sign of a bad employee, is now the norm.

Text messages are “making deep inroads” in workplaces across America, says Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen. Yet messaging your boss can lead to accidental texts like “Love you” or “pumpkinbear.”

“While email helps silo work communications, the text inbox is a more blended affair, where notes from friends and family jostle with communiqués from bosses and co-workers,” Chen writes.

Besides awkward text exchanges, there are other miscues many employees can make as smartphones become more commonplace at work. For instance, overusing your phone or constantly getting bombarded with notifications can lead to decreased productivity.

“Productivity is often at its apex during a flow state,” when a person is fully immersed in an activity, NYC-based psychotherapist Jordana Jacobs told Business Insider.

According to Jacobs, while phones are great for the technology they provide, they also feed into our natural distracted state. Cell phones take us out of the flow state, “which is so fundamental to productivity,” she said. “Essentially, we are consistently interrupting our own thought process,” she said. To put it simply, our phones “take us away from ‘the now,'” she added.

It’s probably not plausible for you to get rid of your phone at work completely, but you can still take steps to keep it from getting in the way of your goals.

The first step to being more productive is identifying all the ways our phones keep us from staying focused. Jacobs and Jonathan Alpert, psychotherapist and author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” broke down the phone habits that are ruining our productivity:

Mindlessly checking emails harms productivity
According to Jacobs, smartphones take us out of being in the present. When we’re constantly checking those work and personal emails, she said it puts us in the mindset of, “I’m doing this rather than just being where I am now.”

Constantly taking photos can keep you from being in the moment
One of the perks of today’s smartphones is that they double as high-quality cameras.

While it’s great to want to take a picture here and there to have a keepsake of a particular moment, Jacobs said that playing paparazzi in our own lives is another way of taking us from living in the now.

Checking social media distracts us from the actual task
Social media can feed our obsession with other people’s lives, but Jacobs said it’s also a platform for us to brag to our followers about what we are doing or have done.

Texting others keeps you from conversing with people around you
Jacobs said that texting and messaging other people can have you more focused on what those people are currently doing, causing a distraction from anything productive that you should be achieving.

Having your phone out all the time keeps you from prioritising
Jacobs said she believes that we have lost the capacity to be alone.

“We now think of the phone as our primary attachment figure; all of the people we know and love live in the phone, that’s how we talk to them,” she said. “We never actually have space by ourselves to contemplate, reflect, or gain insight into the self, in the way we used to be able to.”

Knowing and growing ourselves can be the most productive work we do, and our phones often get in the way of this.

Productivity apps can help and hurt your efforts
While Alpert does think that there are some productivity apps that can be helpful, he said he believes that relying solely on them or downloading the wrong one can actually do the opposite. According to him, the best way to stay productive is to have the right mindset.

“How someone thinks can significantly impact their behaviors, drive, and ultimately their output,” he said. “People should feel encouraged that developing a go-getter mindset is possible.”

Notifications on your screen can be distracting
Alpert said many people do, and these notifications – whether it’s a text message or news alert – can distract you from finishing whatever work you have started. He suggested shutting off social media notifications completely. “These merely serve as a distraction and probably don’t contain anything urgent,” he said.

Opening one app can leads to opening another
With apps, the internet, and other features of smartphones, you can easily find yourself going down a deep rabbit hole of distraction.

“Rarely do people go online or on their phones and stick to the intended reason for checking their phones,” he said. “If they’re checking weather, that might then lead to checking email, messages, or reading a news story – all this serves as a gross distraction and impacts productivity.”

The blue light emitted by your phone impacts sleep quality
According to Alpert, the blue light that is emitted from devices can affect our sleep patterns.

“Blue light is thought to enter the brain through the eyes and impact the pineal gland. This gland plays a role in melatonin production, the hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles,” he said. “So devices used close to bed could impact someone’s ability to get proper rest.”

This will have a profound effect on mood, energy levels, and ability to focus and complete tasks, he said.

Since we can look up anything  we may be losing the ability to wonder
This one may not be expressly related to productivity, but it is still concerning.

Jacobs said we have lost our ability to wonder, because we can pretty much look up whatever we need to – the answers to every burning question we may have are always right at our fingertips. “I think this truncates the creativity process and stunts our imaginations,” she said.

Home Affairs website down for two weeks

The Department of Home Affairs website has been unavailable for nearly two weeks without any indication of when it will be back online.

The website initially displayed a message saying “The main website is currently offline. Emergency Maintenance as 10 April 2019”.

The website linked to a few Home Affairs services which were still online, including its online application process.

The holding page has since disappeared and the website is now completely offline, giving the error message “The requested URL could not be retrieved”.

The Department of Home Affairs continued to post pictures and videos of Minister Siyabonga Cwele on Twitter, but did not mention its website downtime.

The images below show what visitors to the Department of Home Affairs website were greeted with over the last two weeks.

SA blackouts may cut growth close to zero

By Rene Vollgraaff and Londell Phumi Ramalepe for Bloomberg/Fin24

South Africa’s power cuts could bring economic growth for the year close to zero if they continue at the same severity seen in March, the central bank said.

The wave of rolling blackouts that started in November and are among the worst the country has yet experienced could knock 1.1 percentage point off economic growth, the Reserve Bank said in its Monetary Policy Review released Wednesday in Pretoria, the capital.

Expansion of close to zero would be the worst outcome since 2009, when former President Jacob Zuma came to power.

The nation’s embattled power utility, Eskom, implemented so-called stage 4 load-shedding, which removed about 10% from the grid, last month as ageing plants were offline. The company is battling with high debt levels and declining revenue after years of financial mismanagement. It was at the center of alleged looting under the previous administration that’s referred to locally as state capture.

“It has become clearer, however, that the legacy of state capture of which load shedding is one symptom will constrain growth for a longer period,” the Reserve Bank said. “The damage done by state capture is worse than previously understood.”

The country’s economy went through a recession last year and hasn’t expanded at more than 2% annually since 2013. Growth will only pick up once domestic constraints are dealt with, Deputy Governor Kuben Naidoo said in a presentation after the release of the Monetary Policy Review. Gross domestic product increased 0.8% in 2018.

The central bank pointed out that its estimates, which also show 125 000 jobs could be lost, assume load shedding will persist at high levels throughout the year, and don’t incorporate longer-term costs such as forfeited investment.

“It’s unclear to what extent firms and household have now made their own plans to manage or avoid their reliance on Eskom, which could mitigate growth costs,” the Reserve Bank said.

By Siviwe Feketha for IOL

Former president Thabo Mbeki has warned about the ANC’s call for the nationalisation of the SA Reserve Bank, saying it would not result in any material achievement. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg – Former president Thabo Mbeki has warned about the ANC’s call for the nationalisation of the SA Reserve Bank, saying it would not result in any material achievement.

Mbeki was speaking at the Gauteng ANC pavilion at the Rand Easter Show in Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, where he declared his intention to vote and campaign for the ANC in the upcoming election.

Since his defeat by his successor, Jacob Zuma, at the 2007 national conference in Polokwane and his recall by the party in 2008, Mbeki has not been active in ANC politics.

He said while he found it impossible to campaign for the party under Zuma due to wrongdoings, President Cyril Ramaphosa and his government demonstrated a commitment of addressing the party’s challenges.

“It is in that context that it becomes possible to come back and to be active publicly like this,” he said.

However, he criticised the party’s 2017 national conference resolution which called for the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank.

“I don’t know what anybody would gain by that nationalisation of the Reserve bank, except to say we have nationalised. Nothing would change in terms of the behaviour of the Reserve Bank, nothing,” Mbeki said.

He said while many in support of the move said they wanted the central bank to move away from inflation targeting, nationalising it would not result in policy change.

“Inflation targeting is not the decision of the Reserve Bank. It is a decision of the South African government. It is the government which said there must be inflation targeting and these are the targets between three and six percent. That is government and the Reserve bank implements,” he said.

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