A Tshisa investigation: Gender pay gap in the entertainment industry a reality or nah?

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The issue of paycheques and salaries is considered a taboo topic in South Africa, with artists only willing to say that they don’t “lead a glamorous life”.

While actors’ earnings in major blockbusters are public knowledge globally, veteran actress Florence Maseba insists money issues are a lot more hush hush in SA. “The industry is nowhere near standardized and we are still fighting for decent rates. Generally, we tend to not discuss fees among artists which makes it tricky with producers, so to be honest we don’t know the seriousness of the pay gap.”

However, when it comes to gender pay gaps Mzansi has stood firm and explained that pay in South African entertainment circles is based on talent, celebrity status and how big your brand is.

“There are actors who earn a lot more than others but it has nothing to do with being male or female. You must look at experience, what you have done before and whether you have international experience. International experience improves your pay no matter what gender you are,” explained Skeem Saam actress Amanda du-Pont.

She said that she does not feel discredited against as a female in the industry.

 “I feel like for most actors the issue is more about getting work than whether they are being paid more or less because of their gender or race.”

Afrikaans singing sensations and siblings Bobby and Karlien van Jaarsveld added their voice to those agreeing that pay is not based on gender. “Karlien’s fee is a bit less than Bobby’s, but that is purely because her breakthrough came a few years after Bobby’s. The more cds you sell, the more popular you are and the higher your fee,” said their mom and manager Ronel Brink.

Industry pundits have also told TshisaLIVE that female representation within the entertainment industry is high in South Africa. Mzansi Magic recently launched The Lockdown, a series boasting an all-female cast. In a statement to TshisaLIVE Mzansi Magic said it promoted fair pay across the board, no matter the gender.

“We believe in fair remuneration for actors within the resources available to each production, and would certainly not condone pay discrimination based on gender,” said Nondumiso Mabece.

Former Generations actor Thato Molamu reiterated that in South Africa salary is not based on gender, but talent.

“I feel like experience is the main factor in determining pay. If you have no experience you will be paid less because the company must invest more in your training. But having said that, there is no regulator for pay in the industry so it is difficult to gauge how much an actor or actress earns and how much that is in comparison to others in the industry. It is a problem for both male and female actors.

The call to have more open discussions around salary has been echoed by Isidingo actress Khabonina Qubeka, who plays Nina in the popular soapie.

“It’s such a complicated issue because the industry is so tight-lipped and we don’t discuss salaries, however it is an important conversation to have. Fees should be based on talent and decorum as an actor, not race, gender or anything else,” she said. 

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