National Minimum Wage: Invitation for public comment

As their annual tick box exercise to appease the public and keep up the appearance of legislative compliance, the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Commission (‘the Commission’), on 1 August 2023, published their invitation to the public for written representations, the deadline of which expires on 8 September 2023.

NEASA has always, in principle, objected to the notion of a national minimum wage. South Africa experiences a surplus of, especially, unskilled and low-skilled job seekers – caused by de-industrialisation and the failure of the education system. The unemployment crisis in South Africa requires an entirely different approach from the one which, until now, largely contributed towards unemployment. We must find a way to expedite and simplify access to the Labour market for the unemployed.

The only measure through which this can be addressed, is to scrap the concept of a legislated national minimum wage in its entirety and to rather focus on education, the upskilling of the workforce and economic growth. When this is done, the free market will automatically compete for quality and skilled workers, which will organically drive up wages.

The current dispensation dictates that unless an employee can find an employer that is able to pay him at the level of the NMW, that employee is doomed to a life of abject poverty; a grant is no substitute for a paid job, even a very low paying one.

A person who is unable to find a job due to a prescribed minimum wage, is denied the opportunity to be exposed to the world of work and to obtain a skill. Apart from the devastating financial impact this has on that employee, it denies him his constitutional right to human dignity.  

What Government seems to fail to understand, is that when one employee is excluded from the labour market due to a NMW, it is not only that employee who suffers. In South Africa, we live in a dispensation where one worker is generally the only income generator in a family of 4 or 5 people. This means that they would all suffer the consequences of that one employee being denied entry into the labour market.

At the heart of the problem regarding the prescription of minimum wages, is the fact that the more a single employee is legislatively obligated to be paid, the less employees can be paid in total. This is especially the case where a wage is artificially set and not the result of free market powers.

The notion of a NMW has no relevance to wealthy employers in the economic hubs of South Africa. The greatest impact is felt in rural areas, where unemployment is rife. 

The fundamental problem here is the ANC’s ideological constraints and their refusal to implement what is required to create a vibrant economy which provides for maximum employment.  Although they preach ‘jobs for all’, every socialistic step they take is to the contrary.

Consequently, any input made to the Commission is simply a waste of time.