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Picture: NARDUS ENGELBRECHT/GALLO IMAGES
Picture: NARDUS ENGELBRECHT/GALLO IMAGES

I have been pointing out since the implementation of the National Minimum Wage Act that it will have negative effect on certain categories of staff in SA. We are about to see an increase to the minimum wage — the Consumer Price Index plus 3% — which means domestic workers will earn R27.71 an hour.

In other words, a five-day week and eight hours a day will mean that a domestic worker earns R4,433.60 a month. This is a pitiful wage and by all accounts employers who can afford to pay more than this should do so. However, there is a drastic potential downside.

We have already seen mass retrenchments of domestic workers with the inception of the minimum wage. More than 1-million domestic workers were in employment  before Covid. Despite a slight recovery since than, more than 150,000 domestic workers haven’t been able to return to work.

Over and above their salaries domestic workers often have access to accommodation and food. Farm workers are in a similar predicament, losing everything if they lose their jobs. Losing a job often means losing accommodation and daily sustenance.

The minimum wage is a double-edged sword. For those who have employment it can offer some protection, but for those who lose their jobs the minimum wage act means they lose everything.

The new minimum wage comes into operation on March 1, and I predict another 100,000 domestic workers will lose their jobs. The regulations have to be urgently changed to enable poorer households to get proper exemptions from the act and not just a 10% exemption.

The government doesn’t seem to understand how it has destroyed employment. We urgently need change.

Michael Bagraim, MP
DA shadow deputy employment & labour ministry

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