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In November, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a proposal by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to set the minimum wage in SA at R3,500 a month (or R20 a hour). The proposal has been criticised by parties on both sides of the political spectrum. National Union of Metalworkers general secretary Irvin Jim called it "a legitimisation of slavery wages", while commentators from the market sector argued that the proposal would lead to increased unemployment and widen the gap between the rich and poor. While these debates continue to rage, new research on the rising cost of food gives the issue an alarmingly visceral dimension. It turns out that R3,500 a month is scarcely enough to pay for nutritious food for a small family in SA. What is more, almost half of the population (47%) earn even less than that. The maths is not difficult: many households in SA do not earn sufficient income to feed themselves properly. For many, hunger and malnutrition are beco...

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