Minimum Wages in South Africa
In South Africa, a Minimum Wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly wage that employers may legally pay employees or workers. It often applies to unskilled or semi-skilled workers in the service industry, in factories or manufacturing plants. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, there is a national Minimum Wage. In South Africa, Minimum Wages are prescribed per sector or area.
Minimum Wages for the vulnerable
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) permits the Minister of Labour to set minimum terms and conditions of employment, including Minimum Wages. In South Africa, the Minimum Wage is directed at those who are often most vulnerable in the workplace. The Minister is advised in this regard by a body called the Employment Conditions Commission. Vulnerable sectors or areas are those with no unions or very little union activity and where wages tend to be low.
These sectors are:
• Domestic work sector
• Contract cleaning
• Private security sector
• Wholesale and retail
• Farm worker sector
• Forestry sector
• Taxi sector
• Children in the performance of advertising, artistic and cultural activities
Different Minimum Wage rates
Minimum Wage rates may differ across geographical areas - for example, if one works in a city or rural environment. They may also differ in terms of pay periods (daily, monthly or yearly). Job function, years of experience and working hours are also factors.
In South Africa, Minimum Wages are usually set for a year. The Minister of Labour has the power to review and increase minimum wages. This happens annually and is often linked to the consumer price index (CPI). However, this only applies to minimum wages and not actual wages. Parties are still at liberty to negotiate for better increases, using the minimum as a floor.
Minimum Wages are part of a larger wage system
Wages can be set in South Africa in three ways:
• In the statutory system of wage determination through the Bargaining Councils.
• Through sectoral determinations made by the Minister of Labour.
• Outside that system, in centralised and decentralised bargaining at company (single employer) and plant level.
Minimum Wages affect many South African workers
Based on the latest comprehensive employment figures (from 2007) the sectors with Minimum Wage determinations jointly covered about 5.5 million workers: 40% of the South African workforce.
Department of Labour Minimum Wages:
- Civil Engineering
- Contract Cleaning
- Domestic Workers
- Farm Workers
- Learnership Allowance
- Private Security
- Wholesale and Retail