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The pro­posed na­tional min­i­mum wage is R20 an hour. The 40-hour week, which hy­po­thet­i­cally turns that into R3 500, is al­most as im­por­tant as the wage rate it­self.

Pro­fes­sor Im­raan Valo­dia, dean of the com­merce, law and man­age­ment fac­ulty at the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand, has been in­volved with the in­sourc­ing of cam­pus staff and says: “On av­er­age, if you are look­ing at the vul­ner­a­ble sec­tors such as se­cu­rity guards and clean­ing staff, all those kinds of sec­toral de­ter­mi­na­tions have very high work­ing hours.

“The se­cu­rity guards at Wits work in­cred­i­ble hours, and they are happy the more you throw at them,” he said.

“In gen­eral, the im­pres­sion is that peo­ple work too much. So, if you lift the hourly rate, you give them the scope to work less.

“We were think­ing of peo­ple over the 45-hour thresh­old,” he adds.

The flip side of this is the sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of South Africa’s work­force who work less than 40 hours a week.

“The ques­tion is whether there will be a big ad­just­ment in their work­ing hours that could lead to work­ers earn­ing even less than they do now,” says Valo­dia.

“What will it be like for groups who only get a few hours’ work, not by choice? That would be part of the ev­i­dence we need to look at.”


An­other im­por­tant part of the pro­posed na­tional min­i­mum wage is what the R20 wage is in 2019 money terms.

A two-year pe­riod is pro­posed, dur­ing which ev­ery­one has to ad­just to that hourly rate, which will not change un­til the tran­si­tion is com­plete.

To­day, that fu­ture R20 amounts to be­tween R17 and R18, de­pend­ing on the in­fla­tion rate one ex­pects in the next two years.

Many of the low­est wage rates in the ex­ist­ing sec­toral de­ter­mi­na­tions will reach that level in the next two to three years any­way, mak­ing the shift to a na­tional min­i­mum wage im­per­cep­ti­ble.

“That was part of the think­ing,” ad­mits Valo­dia.

“I think any­one who will be set­ting a sec­toral de­ter­mi­na­tion in the near fu­ture is go­ing to use this as a ref­er­ence point.”

The pro­posed lower wages for farm work­ers and do­mes­tic work­ers are also seem­ingly de­signed to ac­com­mo­date the tra­jec­tory on which their wages are al­ready based (see ta­ble).

The pri­vate se­cu­rity in­dus­try is an out­lier be­cause it has rel­a­tively high “nor­mal” hours of work and does not cur­rently ex­plic­itly set wages in hour terms.

The low­est-paid guards have an hourly equiv­a­lent wage of about R15 cur­rently, which will still be well be­low R20 by 2019 if ad­justed by in­fla­tion.

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