South Africa introduces controversial national minimum wage South Africa introduces controversial national minimum wage

South Africa introduces controversial national minimum wage
08 Jan 2019

South Africa has introduced its first ever national minimum wage, with President Cyril Ramaphosa claiming millions of workers will be better off as a result.

Trade unions have been split over whether to support the new minimum, which has been set at R20 (US$1.39) an hour. Farm workers will receive R18 (US$1.28) per hour, according to SABC News, while domestic workers will be entitled to R15 (US$1.06) per hour. Public servants will earn a minimum of R11 (US$0.78) per hour.

Ramaphosa said: "Millions of South African workers will benefit. This is the result of many decades of tireless struggle and is a powerful demonstration of the shared resolve of all social partners to tackle poverty and inequality."

His African National Congress party hopes the move will appeal to its traditional electoral base among poor township and rural voters in advance of a general election that is expected to take place in May. But the minimum wage legislation has faced fierce criticism from opposition parties and some trade unions, according to the Daily Nation.

Main opposition party the Democratic Alliance voted against the Bill saying it was rushed through Parliament and would lead to 750,000 job losses. The left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters, led by the firebrand Julius Malema, also rejected it, saying the minimum of R3,500 (US$243) per month was too low.

The second largest labour federation, the South African Federation of Trade Unions likewise labelled it a "slave wage". But the Cosatu trade union federation said 6.4 million workers would benefit and hailed it is as "a major cash injection into workers' pockets".

The South African economy is forecast to have grown by just 0.7% last year, with unemployment remaining at a record high of more than 27%.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

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South Africa has introduced its first ever national minimum wage, with President Cyril Ramaphosa claiming millions of workers will be better off as a result.

Trade unions have been split over whether to support the new minimum, which has been set at R20 (US$1.39) an hour. Farm workers will receive R18 (US$1.28) per hour, according to SABC News, while domestic workers will be entitled to R15 (US$1.06) per hour. Public servants will earn a minimum of R11 (US$0.78) per hour.

Ramaphosa said: "Millions of South African workers will benefit. This is the result of many decades of tireless struggle and is a powerful demonstration of the shared resolve of all social partners to tackle poverty and inequality."

His African National Congress party hopes the move will appeal to its traditional electoral base among poor township and rural voters in advance of a general election that is expected to take place in May. But the minimum wage legislation has faced fierce criticism from opposition parties and some trade unions, according to the Daily Nation.

Main opposition party the Democratic Alliance voted against the Bill saying it was rushed through Parliament and would lead to 750,000 job losses. The left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters, led by the firebrand Julius Malema, also rejected it, saying the minimum of R3,500 (US$243) per month was too low.

The second largest labour federation, the South African Federation of Trade Unions likewise labelled it a "slave wage". But the Cosatu trade union federation said 6.4 million workers would benefit and hailed it is as "a major cash injection into workers' pockets".

The South African economy is forecast to have grown by just 0.7% last year, with unemployment remaining at a record high of more than 27%.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

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