The issue of a instituting a national minimum wage is currently under debate in South Africa. If agreed upon, the South African government will initiate the process of finalising the policy and passing legislation. A national minimum wage would set a single wage floor for all sectors of the economy, subject to any agreed exceptions.

This is a highly contentious issue and careful research is needed to ground what is often a politically charged discussion. Following engagement with labour and civil society formations, CSID in the School of Economic and Business Sciences at the University of Witwatersrand, launched the National Minimum Wage Research Initiative. This research project: explores the issue of minimum wages and employment; provides detailed case study evidence; offers relevant statistical analysis; undertakes two statistical modelling exercises to determine the impact of a statutory national minimum wage on variables such as investment, output, growth, poverty, employment, and inequality in South Africa; and provides policy analysis based on international best practice. The project also provides relevant information to non-experts including: the media, members of community groups, NGOs and trade unions, business people, policy makers, academics, and all other interested parties.

The researcher is being undertaken in co-operation with experts from several advising institutions (including the International Labour Organisation) and academics from several prestigious Universities (including SOAS, University of London; University of Campinas, Brazil; Berlin School of Economics and Law; and the University of Massachusetts, USA). The research is supported by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) South Africa and Oxfam Great Britian in South Africa. The research output is independent and the project overseen by a panel of experts.

The potential impacts of a national minimum wage are far reaching. Current minimum wage coverage through the sectoral determinations is uneven, often low, and frequently unable to meet the basic living needs of most workers. Moreover, minimum wage legislation is regularly violated. The persistence of apartheid’s cheap labour legacy means that despite significant changes to South Africa’s labour market (both positive and negative), the vast majority of South Africans remain in poverty. A national minimum wage may be able to play a central role in the restructuring of the labour market (and economy more generally) and requires careful attention.


fes_logoThe Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) is the oldest political foundation in Germany with a rich tradition dating back to its foundation in 1925. Today, it remains loyal to the legacy of its namesake and campaigns for the core ideas and values of social democracy: freedom, justice and solidarity. It has a close connection to social democracy and free trade unions. In South Africa the FES has worked in close cooperation with the ANC, COSATU and different civil society organisations for a better socio-economic development and for gender equality in South Africa and with the IGD on issues of international concern. The FES contributes to policy dialogues on democracy, on a sustainable social market economy, and on North-South and South-South Cooperation in a globalised world.

fes_logoOxfam Great Britain in South Africa is an affiliate of Oxfam International, a confederation of 17 organisations working together with partners and local communities in more than 90 countries. Oxfam GB aims to support and strengthen civil society organisations and institutions in South Africa to reduce inequality, poverty, and injustice. Oxfam works to find practical, innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive. Oxfam saves lives and helps to rebuild livelihoods when crisis strikes and campaigns so that the voices of the poor influence the local and global decisions that affect them. In all they do, Oxfam works with partner organizations and alongside vulnerable women and men to end the injustices that cause poverty.

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