At the beginning of 2019, South Africa become the latest country to enact a national minimum-wage law.
This is a law prescribing what the lowest amount a working South African can be paid. While some countries like the US have state by state minimum wages, South Africa enacted one nationwide law.
At its basic, the national minimum wage in South Africa is R20 ($1.4)per hour, or R3 500 (245) per month depending on hours worked.
While this may seem quite low by Western standards, life in South Africa is also generally cheaper compared to Western countries. Rent is much cheaper, food, transport and everything in between.
South Africa’s minimum wage bill had a long journey before it became law.
The first notable progress came in February 2017 when the Government and business stakeholders signed a minimum wage agreement.
Later in 2017, the cabinet approved the bill, but it wasn’t until 2018 when parliament passed the bill.
President Ramaphosa then signed the bill into law in November 2018. He called the law ‘a great victory’ towards ensuring that every South African received a living wage.
“A wage increase of that size and that extent is unprecedented in our history, and we must celebrate it.Advertisement
“The national minimum wage is like a great hill that we have climbed, but we dare not linger, because there are still many more hills to climb,” he stated.
The law is expected to raise the earnings of an estimated 6 million South Africans, representing more than half of the country’s labour-force.
The law officially came in effect on January 1, 2019.
While this is a national average, different sectors attract different minimum wages.
Workers in sectors such as domestic work, hospitality, taxi sector etc. will likely fall on the lowest side of this national minimum, while workers in sectors like engineering will start off quite higher than the national minimum.
Minimum wages in other countries
South Africa is nowhere close to the top countries when it comes to national minimum wages, but it’s definitely doing better than other African countries.
At about $1.4 an hour, South Africa’s minimum wage would place it at about position 34 in the world, right after Brazil.
Australia leads the charts with $14.14 an hour.