But some fear it may lead to job losses in certain sectors
For some, R1 500 might be small change. But for Port Elizabeth mother of three Nosipiwo Ntaopane, this is the only money she earns and it has to get her and her family through the month.
However, it is a daily battle and she often finds herself at the mercy of loan sharks just to get by.
For Ntaopane, 47, a general worker at BM Machesa Construction, the proposed minimum wage of R3 500 would be a godsend.
The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlec) recently proposed that a national minimum wage in South Africa should be set at R3 500 per month.
The proposal needs to be discussed at length and agreed upon before it is set in stone.
For domestic workers, the proposed national minimum wage is 75% of the proposed national wage – R2 625 – while for farmworkers it is 90% of the proposed wage, which amounts to R3 150.
Some Nelson Mandela Bay residents fear that the proposed minimum wage amount would lead to job losses and that they would be replaced by foreigners willing to work for less.
Domestic workers in Summerstrand and Humewood who earn more than R3 500 are worried that their employers could reduce their salaries to the proposed minimum amount.
Gertrude Mavekela, 72, a domestic worker in Summerstrand, said she was happy that her employer already paid her more than the proposed R3 500 a month.
“Not everyone is as lucky. I know a friend whose salary was reduced to the minimum wage for domestic workers by her employer,” Mavekela said.
A 34-year-old domestic worker in Humewood, who declined to be named, said some employers would hire foreigners who are willing to work for far less because they might not want to pay the proposed minimum wage.
But Ntaopane, from Wells Estate, said a pay hike would change her life.
“I earn about R2 343 a month but after deductions I am left with only R1 500,” Ntaopane said.
“I use that money for my children’s school transport, buy electricity and buy groceries.
“For my kids, a cereal in the morning or a delicious breakfast with eggs is a luxury they can only dream of. We can’t afford to eat meat on a daily basis.
“The money for groceries is not enough, leaving me with no choice but to go to loan sharks so that we can make it through the month. The R3 500 would change my life for the better.”
Eugenia Gwiji, 58, from Booysen Park, already earns R3 500 as a cleaner for a government department.
“The proposed amount will not make any difference to my life because I can barely survive with it already.
“R600 goes to my transport and I spend about R2 000 on groceries and electricity. I then pay my accounts with what is left. Loan sharks are my only way of sur vival,” Gwiji said.
Mandla Msizi, Nafcoc secretary in the Bay, believes that the proposed minimum wage would be a challenge for small businesses, creating a hostile environment for those businesses which cannot afford to pay the proposed amount.
Labour expert and Free Market Foundation executive director Leon Louw said the minimum wage increase should be zero.
“Jobs will be affected by this proposed amount and very few people will get to earn the proposed amount,” he said.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said although the amount was still not enough to support an average-sized family, it was a fair wage considering the slow growth in the economy and massive youth unemployment figures in the country.
“Retail, security and hospitality sectors will be affected and have to accordingly adjust their operations,” he said.
“Tourism, light manufacturing and agro-processing, in particular, are high priority growth sectors for our region and we hope that the proposed new wage increases will not negatively influence the sustainability, growth and potential of jobs in these sectors.”