SA still far from wage equality‚ study shows

29 May 2018 - 15:05 By Theto Mahlakoana
Image: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo

Labour relations in the country are at a crossroad‚ with the potential to either improve or get worse as workers struggle to survive on wages that have dwindled in value over the years.

A study on South African workers’ income and expenditure patterns showed that there was a lack of growth in monthly earnings among workers‚ with the lowest end of the wage distribution suffering the most.

Labour analyst Andrew Levy said this was reflected in wage demands made by workers‚ as the standard of living had become more "squeezed".

He was speaking at the launch of the report in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

"There is little or no income left when workers are paid out‚" according to the report.

Workers across all levels were spending 29% of their wages on housing or rental‚ 21% on transport‚ 13% on savings and insurance and 13% on loans.

Other factors influencing the variables in the labour market in SA were the continued widening of the wage gap along race and gender lines.

"Gender and race discrimination is rife … we are far from wage equality‚" Levy said.

The study showed that black women earned the lowest wages and were more susceptible than other groups to discrimination.

Levy said employers had to closely assess levels of earnings‚ consumption and expenditure patterns of employees to consider ways of supporting poverty alleviation and income inequality.

He also encouraged employers to prioritise lifting the wage base of low-income earners in order to address inequality.

Citing the recently concluded public-sector wage negotiations‚ Levy said it was commendable to see employers focusing on improving the wages and conditions of low-skilled workers.

The introduction of the national minimum wage was‚ however‚ expected to improve the wages of millions of workers‚ although it would not enable them to lead "dignified" lives.