South Africa’s National Minimum Wage: A Total Sell Out? Or Bright Light in a Dark Tunnel?
by Salma Abdool & Ebrahim Fakir
This paper takes a balaced approach, navigating the middle ground between either a solely moral argument, or purely economic one.
We ask, what does the national minimum wage really offer? Is it a total sell out, or does it provide some light at the end of the tunnel? Negotiated at NEDLAC to be set at R20 per hour, or R3500 in monthly terms, the proposed national minimum wage does not meet either the living wage level, or the decent wage threshold.
This leaves many, particularly family members who are dependent on one workers wage, living below the working poor line (estimated to be R4317 as of February 2016).
While South African families often depend on one wage earner per family in which the R3500 per month would be insufficient, there are some benefits to be derived from setting a baseline for the distribution of wages.
While a wage level of R3500 is not “Just”, it does have positive spin-offs. Two of the employment sectors in which a Minimum Wage of R3500 will be have an immediate positive impact on, is agricultural and domestic workers – whom to date earn significantly below the working-poor line.
When the National Minimum Wage comes into effect, approximately 4.3 million low wage workers will immediately have their wages raised. This paper agrees that the National Minimum Wage policy be reviewed annually for assessment and adjustment in order to meet the needs of workers, and further agrees that the current negotiated level is a good baseline from which to advance workers interests.
Key words: National Minimum Wage, Working Poor Line, Poverty Line