Five low excuses

Five low excuses

Category : Latest Blogs

1. “We’re providing employment by employing people who wouldn’t otherwise have work.”

It’s true that, for many workers, getting a job is better than some of the alternatives – that is why so many depend on them. The fact that people are desperate isn’t an excuse to exploit them. Workers aren’t getting their fair share of the benefits they are creating for the big companies. We welcome the fact that millions of people are earning a wage. However, this alone is not enough to lift them from poverty if employers can hire and fire at will, deny union rights, pay low wages that drive people to work inhumane hours just to survive, avoid paying sick leave and avoid observing maternity rights. For many workers, these jobs carry devastating hidden costs, such as poor health, exhaustion and broken families, all of which are unacceptable and avoidable. Everyone wants and is entitled to a quality job that pays “just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his [or her] family an existence worthy of human dignity.” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23(3)).

2. “I’d have to retrench some members of staff.”

Or pay them a living wage, but for less hours? That way they are free to seek other employment or spend time with their families?

3. “Higher wages in ‘lower skilled’ jobs will cause nurses or teachers to leave their jobs, thereby ruining local education and welfare systems.”

A rise in salaries amongst in lower skilled jobs leads to higher tax income, which, in turn means teachers and nurses could be paid more.

4. “Consumers will not want to pay more.”

That may be true, but if we take the clothing industry as an example, its worth noting that a garment workers’ wage is only 1-3% of the total cost of most garments. If a consumer pays R200 for a shirt, the worker who made it receives R6 at most. To double this wage would only be another R6. The consumer would barely notice this type of increase, and if a consumer won’t notice it, a company probably won’t notice it that much either. These types of costs could be absorbed into company profit margins who make millions per annum in profits.

5. “Businesses that pay more in wages will lose competitive advantage over others.”

Wage increases have been shown to improve workforce morale and productivity, and to reduce absenteeism and employee turnover, so paying a living wage could even improve quality and flexibility, allowing enlightened suppliers to retain a competitive edge.

Three reasons why its a Good thing

1. A Living Wage is Good for business

There is growing evidence that businesses benefit from implementing the Living Wage: “75% of employees reported an increase in the quality of their work after receiving the Living Wage.” “80% of employers noticed an increase in productivity.”  KPMG is one of the largest professional services companies in the world and one of the Big Four auditors, along with Deloitte, EY and PwC. Its global headquarters is located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  Guy Stallard is Head of Facilities at KPMG. Facilities at KPMG consists of three specialist functions supporting 11,000 partners and staff – Property, Workplace Services and Business Continuity, Safety and Security. Guy heads up these teams, managing 22 offices.

“For KPMG, paying the Living Wage is not just an important part of our values, our people strategy and our award winning corporate responsibility agenda: it’s critical.!” Guy Stallard

2. A Living Wage is Good for employees and their families

Research has found workplaces have better psychological wellbeing than those in ‘non-living wage’ workplaces.  The same research found that two-thirds of the workers interviewed in Living Wage workplaces reported improvements in either their work, family life or finances. Those receiving the Living Wage can afford a decent quality of life. For some this means working fewer hours and having time to see their families, time to volunteer in their communities, or time to look after their health.

3. A Living Wage is Good for society

Employees earning the Living Wage are more likely to spend, to save, and to have greater faith in the economy.

Calculating a Living Wage

There are various ways to calculate a Living Wage [6], these include someone having:

  • Enough to buy clothes to keep them warm in the winter and cool in summer
  • Enough to buy fuel for cooking and soap for cleaning
  • Enough to pay fees / fares to attend school and get to work.
  • Enough to rent for a home [7]
  • Enough to buy the minimum amount of food which they need to stay healthy (2400 cal)  [8]

If you employ a Domestic Worker, use this calculator to estimate what a living wage is for your employee(s).






[5] Read more:


[7] If one took a house of 55m2 costing around R250,000, the minimum recommended as a more acceptable standard for South Africa’s social and cultural needs by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (1982), hen a housing based living wage would equate to +_R8,000 per month.

[8] (assuming 31 days per month)1,811.30 R Milk (regular), (0.25 liter)3.00 R; Loaf of Fresh White Bread (150.00 g)3.33; Rice (white), (0.10 kg)1.68; Eggs (3.60)6.29; Local Cheese (0.10 kg)7.89; Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (0.25 kg)14.47; Apples (0.35 kg)6.19; Oranges (0.35 kg)5.39; Tomato (0.25 kg)4.03; Potato (0.30 kg)3.93; Lettuce (0.20 head)2.22

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