Will Minimum Wage Increase Boost Economic Growth In South Africa?

Will Minimum Wage Increase Boost Economic Growth In South Africa?

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The South African government announced on Monday that it is going to raise the minimum wage for domestic workers in the country starting from December 1st 2016. Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said that the new wage increase will be applicable until November 30th 2017. The increase in minimum wage comes as good news since it raises the amount of disposable income for the domestic workers.

With the higher levels of disposable income, the domestic workers can decide to spend it all in improving their living standards or save the surplus income. However, for the financially prudent domestic workers, they will find ways to invest the surplus income through easy to use channels such as Stern Options and other trading platforms.

In his statement, the Labour Minister added that “The minimum wage adjustment is in line with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act which is regulated through the Sectoral Determination. Domestic workers are by law classified as vulnerable‚ hence the Sectoral Determination governing minimum wage and conditions of employment.” According to the labor laws in South Africa, domestic workers include nannies, gardeners, domestic drivers, housekeepers among others.

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The minimum wage increase will however not be applied uniformly in all places. The government has divided different locations into Area A and Area B. Area A consists of major cities, towns and metropolitan municipalities. For domestic workers in Area A working for more than 27 hours per week, their hourly rate will be increased from R11.44 to R12.42. This will translate to weekly earnings of R559.09 from R514.82; and a monthly increase in wages from R2230.70 to R2422.54.

Domestic workers working for less than 27 hours a week in Area A, their hourly wage rate was raised to R14.54, which adds up to a weekly wage rate of R392.58 and cumulatively sums up to a monthly wage rate of R1 701.06. On average, the change in minimum wage for the metropolitan areas represents an increase of about 8.2% in the net pay for domestic workers from the previous year.

 

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Area B consists of non-metropolitan areas in South Africa. For domestic workers in Area B working for more than 27 hours in a week, their new hourly rates stand at R11.31, which translates to a weekly rate of R508.93 and cumulatively add up to a monthly rate of R2205.17. Those domestic workers working less than 27 hours in Area B will start receiving a new hourly wage rate of R13.53, a weekly rate of R360.54 and cumulatively receive a monthly wage rate of R1 562.21. Compared to the financial year 2015/2016, on average this represents a 10% increase the wages for the domestic workers in Area B.

cyril-ramaphosa

These changes are the first among several others that are expected to be introduced in the coming months by the government of South Africa. Early on in August this year the Deputy President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa launched the process of reviewing the national minimum wage for South Africa by appointing a seven member panel to initiate the deliberations on the same. The debate about minimum national wage has been in the media for quite some time now going back to first quarter of 2016.

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One school of thought believes that the minimum wage is not the solution to economic development in South Africa. In their argument, they believe that setting a minimum wage will increase the cost of production for goods and services and leave employers with two options.

The employers will either reduce their headcount in order to curb the rising costs or increase their product prices and face the danger of reduced demand and falling sales. Both alternatives are detrimental to economic growth.

Another school of thought argues that with increased minimum wages, spending power for the consumers will be increased and they will buy more goods and services that they could not afford before.

This would then push demand up and translate to higher production to meet the increasing demand and hence result to an increase in GDP. Eventually South Africa would experience higher economic growth rates as higher revenues for businesses result to further increase in wages by the employers which sparks another round of increased production and the cycle continues.

The debate is still raging on whether the increase in minimum wage is the solution to South Africa’s economic development and the final judgment is yet to be arrived at. However, with the panel constituted to deliberate the matter being made up of the best brains in the discipline of economics, we can expect prudent results to emerge from their discussions soon.

Luis Aureliano
Luis Aureliano, a business writer and financial analyst. With over 15 years of experience in global finance and an MBA in economics and management, Luis’s areas of expertise include business, marketing, communications, personal finance, macro economics, stocks and emerging markets.