Minimum wage raised to R21.69 per hour

The new National Minimum Wage will take effect from 1 March, says the labour ministry.

The Department of Employment and Labour has announced that the National Minimum Wage (NMW) in South Africa will increase by 4.5 percent to R21.69 per hour from 1 March. In addition, farmworkers will now earn the full minimum wage. Prior to the wage hike, they earned R18.68, which is 90 percent of the NMW.

The NMW is paid to workers for ordinary hours of work. Allowances or payments in kind such as transport fees, tools, food, accommodation, board and lodging, tips, bonuses and gifts are not taken into consideration.

Domestic workers and gardeners will now earn 88 percent of the minimum wage, whereas they were only entitled to 75 percent before. Their wages are to go up from R15.57 to R19.09 per hour. The Labour Department said domestic workers can expect to earn more in future as the sector will be aligned with the minimum wage at the next review.

“It is illegal and an unfair labour practice for an employer to unilaterally alter hours of work or other conditions of employment in implementing the NMW,” said Thulas Nxesi, the Minister of Employment and Labour.

Unions have argued against the wage increase since it was first proposed in 2020. Farmer’s union TLU SA previously suggested the government set aside the NMW until the economy and employment rates improve. According to the Citizen, the union disapproves of the decision to give farmworkers the full minimum wage, as they believe it will lead to an increase in unemployment and food prices.

“Farmers are unable to absorb these levels of remuneration,” said Henry Geldenhuys, president of TLU SA. “We shudder when thinking of the consequences of unemployment in South Africa when the government implements the increased hourly rate.” He added that, “If people choose to work for R100 per day for an income, rather than receiving a grant of R40 per day, it should be their choice. More than ever before, what the country needs now is increased employment, resulting in counter-poverty outcomes.”

Free State Agriculture (FSA) said the wage increase was implemented despite industry stakeholders’ objections. FSA president Francois Wilken said, “Time will tell, but this ill-considered decision will force farmers to put alternatives in place to survive economically.”