Wage gap closes be­tween skilled and un­skilled

Business Day - - NATIONAL - Theto Mahlakoana Po­lit­i­cal Writer /File pic­ture mahlakoanat@busi­nesslive.co.za

The wages of work­ers in the bot­tom tier of the econ­omy have in­creased sub­stan­tially over the past 20 years, an em­ploy­ment study by trade union Uasa has found.

The min­i­mum wages of el­e­men­tary work­ers have risen at a much faster rate than of those in mid­dle and some se­nior man­age­ment po­si­tions, it says.

A re­port on the study, re­leased in Jo­han­nes­burg on Tues­day, shows that wage agree­ments be­tween em­ploy­ers and unions gen­er­ally out­paced in­fla­tion, clos­ing the gap be­tween skilled, semi­skilled and low-skilled work­ers.

“The first trend is that the wage gap be­tween the skilled and the un­skilled closed in most cases. For ex­am­ple, the low­est­skilled grades in the mo­tor trade went from less than a fifth of the wage of a skilled grade to over a third be­tween 1979 and 2017,” the re­port says.

Wages of semi­skilled work­ers im­proved from just be­low a third of the skilled grade to 44% of the skilled trade in the mo­tor in­dus­try.

BEN­E­FITS

In ef­fect, this means that the un­skilled per­son now has less of a wage gap in rel­a­tive terms than the semi­skilled grade had in 1979, it says.

Some of the recorded ben­e­fits that have in­creased for work­ers are em­ployer pen­sion fund con­tri­bu­tions, in­creased leave days and fam­ily time. Econ­o­mist Mike Schus­sler says the newly set min­i­mum wage level of R3,500 a month was ex­ceeded by most sec­tors years ago.

The re­search was con­ducted and pre­sented by econ­o­mist Mike Schus­sler, who noted that the ma­jor­ity of the sec­tors in the econ­omy — in­clud­ing min­ing, me­tal and trade and the pub­lic ser­vice — ex­ceeded the newly set min­i­mum wage level of

R3,500 a month decades ago. Union-ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ments in in­dus­try ex­ceeded the R3,500 level in 2007, while pri­vate

The study remarks on the od­dity that is SA’s un­em­ploy­ment rate, which has been stuck at over 20% for two decades.

There was no other coun­try in the largest 100 economies in the world that “has had more than two decades of un­em­ploy­ment above 20% con­stantly”, said Schus­sler.

This was at cri­sis lev­els in SA as the real ef­fect of the Gini co­ef­fi­cient was the re­sult of un­em­ploy­ment, which was di­rectly linked to in­equal­ity and not low for­mal sec­tor wages.

All gov­ern­ment poli­cies needed to have a com­mon fo­cus on em­ploy­ment cre­ation in order to pull in the more than 9-mil­lion peo­ple who were now out­side the labour mar­ket, Schus­sler said.

Wage re­search:

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