In its monthly food price barometer for May‚ the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action argues that the current racial disparities in income and the number of people dependent on a single worker‚ require a national minimum wage which can defeat inflation and mitigate high levels of unemployment.
Currently‚ South Africa has 11 sectoral determinations which cover 45% of vulnerable workers. Sectors covered include retail‚ security‚ agriculture‚ hospitality‚ domestic workers‚ clothing and textile.
The national minimum wage is seen‚ mostly by unions‚ as one of the tools which can be used to address pay inequalities in the country.
PACSA argues that Stats SA’s first quarter Labour Force Quarterly Survey (QLFS) showed that of the 29 million blacks eligible to work‚ only 11.6 million were employed‚ 8 million were unemployed and 9.5 million were not even economically active.
Based on the QLFS figures‚ PACSA says one black South African wage supports about four people in comparison to a white worker who supports about two people.
But there is another layer of pressure – unemployment. The same survey showed that 298‚000 blacks who were employed in the last quarter of 2015 were not employed in the first quarter of 2016.
“Every time one job is lost‚ the already very low wage given to a worker still in a job must now go even further to support his brother or sister’s family who has lost their wage earner. This pushes families deeper into poverty‚” PACSA said.
“The national minimum wage‚ albeit not the only instrument‚ could be a very important one to deal with our economic challenges. We have proposed a National Minimum Wage of R8‚000‚ cost for a household of 5 persons‚ to provide the possibility of living at a basic level of dignity.”
Based on the “poverty data‚ social grants and other income” researchers at the University of Witwatersrand's School of Economics and Business Science have estimated that a national minimum wage should be R4‚125.