The Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) says that the minimum wage in South Africa should be set at R8,000 to provide a basic level of dignity for all South Africans.
The group’s proposal is based on an analysis of household composition in South Africa, in relation to the country’s demographics – keeping in mind that a large portion of the population is unemployed.
“In determining the value of wages – in addition to productivity, we should be looking at how families are being supported: number of wage earners, income levels, family sizes and the costs of goods and services,” Pacsa said.
“If employment levels are very high then it means that wage levels can be lower because households have lots of sources of income. If employment levels are very low then it means that wage levels must be higher because households have limited sources of income.”
StatsSA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2016 showed that the working age population (people aged between 15-64) for Black South Africans totaled 29 million people.
Of this, 11.6 million people were employed, 8 million were unemployed; and 9.5 million were not economically active.
The wages of the employed 11.6 million Black South Africans supported the rest (including those younger than 15 and older than 65) – meaning one black South African wage supports 3.8 (4) people.
This compared to one white South African wage which supports 2.3 (2) people.
Statistical data in 2015 found that the median monthly wage for Black South Africans was R2,800, and for White South Africans it was R10,000.
This means that dividing a black wage among the people being support equals R737 per person – below the poverty line of R753 – while for white people this division results in R4,348 per person.
Why minimum wage should be R8,000
South Africa currently has an average minimum wage (across all sectors) of R2,362 which, when divided among dependents, is below the poverty line (R622 vs R753 per month).
“A worker earning R2,362 – the average minimum wage where it has been set – is not enough even to secure a basic basket of nutritious food for a family of four,” Pacsa said. “Transport to get to work and electricity to cook the food are not even part of it.”
According to Pacsa, the minimum amount needed for a nutritional food basket for a family of five is R3,115.
In order to afford other basic expenses – such as electricity and water, transport, education, clothing and hygiene products – only an R8,000 wage would be adequate.
“Pacsa imagines the NMW as an instrument of justice in economic transformation: as an intervention to deal with historical racial inequities in wage levels, righting the disconnect between the wage earner and cost to support his/her family, and ensuring that all South Africans – employed or not, are able to live at a level of dignity,” the group said.