The recommendations of the national minimum wage advisory panel, chaired by our deputy president and now Cosatu's presidential candidate, Cyril Ramaphosa, set tongues wagging this week, with many unions and opposition parties criticising the R20 an hour (R3500 a month) as too low. According to reports, this all started with Nedlac convening a labour-relations indaba in November 2014, at which government, business, labour and community representatives agreed to "engage on the modalities of introducing a national minimum wage in South Africa". The task teams established to look at this deadlocked several times. Back then, business proposed a R1,900 monthly salary, while labour wanted a threshold between R3,750 and R4,500. But what exactly are we trying to achieve by setting a national minimum wage? What is the problem we are seeking to solve with this intervention, and is this the solution to that problem? Do we have a shared understanding of what a national minimum wage means, as opp...

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