There’s a need for a comprehensive wage information system in South Africa, according to representatives from business, labour, government and research units who attended a workshop on Wage Data and Social Dialogue in Johannesburg.
The executive director of the National Economic Development and Labour Council, Alistair Smith, said, “Social cohesion and dialogue require relevant, accurate and transparent information.”
The workshop was to encourage discussion around the formation of an online wage information system. A user-friendly wage database will be central to this.
According to Saliem Patel of the Labour Research Service, this would provide parties in collective bargaining an accurate and accessible overview of existing wages levels so as to improve dialogue and identify common challenges.
Why does SA need a wage information system?
Chere Monaisa from the National Labour and Economic Development Institute said there were various reasons for establishing a wage information system online.
“There is no basic or standardised wage information system in South Africa. Currently, different organisations have their own methods, which use different variables, and are not generally shared. Meanwhile salary inequality is acknowledged as a social cohesion threat.”
Patel said that what was needed was a process that not only collects wage data but stimulates social dialogues around wages.
“We’re looking at establishing an empirical source of information that’s available and accessible to social partners, media and the public on wages, conditions of work across sectors, occupations and job grades,” he said.
It was generally agreed that there would be a need to develop partnerships, programmes and projects to ensure the sustainability of such a system.
Attendees at the workshop reached a general agreement that an online wage information system – initially known as WISO – can encourage researchers to cooperate and improve the scope, depth and methods of research on earnings.
It was agreed that initially the system will be based on existing information available.
In the future, however, workshop attendees recommended:
- That it would be important to get as wide a range of salaries as possible
- That the information needed to be kept simple and accessible
- That the database should reflect the changing face of employment and job categories.
Business will benefit from database
Peggy Drodskie of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry indicated that such a system would go a long way in helping small medium and micro enterprises, who find it difficult to access appropriate wage information.
Jane Barret of the Congress of South African Trade Unions said that education should be part of the website package as “One must be aware of how data can be used to support particular arguments about wage structure, which could suit one set of interests as opposed to another set.”
Ian Macun of the Department of Labour commented that “Wage data collection needs to go beyond what is in the official statistics available to everybody, and should take into account information required for collective bargaining, wage regulation and wage policy.”