In the media

Using research to give women a voice - with Mamiky Leolo

August 2020

As South Africa commemorates Women’s Month, SA-TIED celebrates the women behind the programme. Three women from SA-TIED recently joined Phemelo Motene on her SAfm radio show. During Women’s Month we will share their profiles and details of their interviews.

Using research to give women a voice

The celebration of Women’s month in South Africa provides an opportunity as a country to reflect on the strides made to improve the lives of women, including their participation in the country’s economy. Through data collection, the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) has been tracking the immense contributions made by women — proof of the growing economic empowerment of women over time in the country.

‘In a study on the first 100 years of Income Tax Act from 1914 to 2014, we took a panel data view of how things have changed in terms of how the participation of women in taxation has changed over time. And if you look at our numbers, the ratio of female taxpayers has moved from about 20% in 1991 to about 44% in 2015. If you look at our Tax Statistics for 2019, which is the 2018 tax year, you’ll see that … number has now moved to 46%. Over time, through direct interventions, we’ve seen the participation of women changing and gradually improving,’ says Mamiky Leolo, Senior Official at SARS, in conversation on SAFM’s Life Happens.

Clearly, there’s still work to be done for equality in employment opportunities, ‘If you look at … taxable income according to the various taxable brackets … below ZAR350,000 taxable income the ratio is 46% females, and if you look above the ZAR350,000 that ratio gets skewed more towards males, and if you look at above ZAR5 million taxable income that ratio becomes about 87% towards men,’ she says. Mamiky believes there is room to further interrogate these dynamics and ensure that they eventually reflect the actual demographics of South Africa in relation to the 51% female and 49% male ratios.

She is one of the leaders of the work stream focussing on public revenue mobilization for inclusive development, within the SA-TIED programme. Through the programme, new research and data continue to inform and shape policies towards better inclusion of women in economic activities. ‘Internationally there is a trend of using tax administration data as [the] basis upon which one evaluates and make decisions about fiscal policy … we make it easier for academic researchers and policy developers to access information to assist them in asking the right kind of questions, develop policy, and track the impact of those policies over time.’

The impact of policies should essentially equate to a better life and society for all South African women in all spheres and walks of life. Mamiky attests to the urgent need to explore ways to turn the tide on inequality, including gender inequality. ‘Even in the SA-TIED programme we’ve had women being co-leaders in all the work streams. We do have a voice, we do have a say in the kind of research topics and moving the needle in terms of the participation of women. This is also filtered into our research work where 30% of research and capacity-building must be by women; to date more than half of our papers have been authored or co-authored by women. This is tremendous progress we have made in making sure there is a voice given to women,’ she says.

You can listen to more of the interview here.