The introduction of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) in South Africa in January 2019 was a significant policy intervention intended to address wage inequality and protect some of the most vulnerable workers in the labour market.
The CSDA conducted a qualitative study for the NMW Commission that sought to gain insights from various stakeholders across the domestic work and agricultural sectors. These stakeholders – employers, employees, Department of Labour officials, and key informants – reflected on their experiences of the NMW in the first year of its implementation.
The study found that workers in the domestic work and agricultural sector continue to experience the lowest average wages and many of them are casual workers. In addition, legislators expected challenges with compliance with the National Minimum Wage Act 9 of 2018; as a result, these sectors were given temporary exclusions from the R20,76 per hour National Minimum Wage. In 2020 the NMW was R18.68 per hour for farm workers and R15.57 per hour for domestic workers.
In both the agriculture and domestic work sector, amongst employees there was a perception that the NMW was not a living wage and most felt that it was unfair for the sector to be excluded from the full NMW. In the domestic work sector employers shared the view that the NMW was not a living wage while employers in the agriculture sector held negative perceptions about the NMW.
This research was critically important for policy makers to get a better understanding of the perceptions and experiences of both employers and employees in these sectors, to monitor the implementation of the NMW, and draw out lessons about how changes in the NMW for these sectors are likely to be received. The NMW Commission recommended a 1.5% above inflation increase for 2021 in November. Public comments were called for on this proposal.