Living Wage

Living Wage

The National Minimum Wage, set by the Department of Labour, takes into account the needs of workers and their families, cost of living, level of wages and incomes in the country, level of employment, capacity of employers to pay. [1]  The Department of Labour identifies 14 sectors, each with different rates of Minimum Wages, including:

  • Wholesale and retail sector: R10 – 12 per hour
  • Contract cleaning sector: R12 – R14 per hour
  • Domestic workers: R7 – 8 per hour

That would mean a Domestic worker working 45 hours a week, the maximum number of hours before overtime should kick in (Department of Labour 2016) [2], their wage would amount to +_R350 per week, just under R1,500 per month.  According to the International Labour Organisation (2013), the average monthly earnings of employees in South Africa is R8,193.93 ZAR.[3]

A Living Wage

A living wage is, “A wage rate that should provide households with a minimum acceptable standard of living” (the Living Wage Foundation).  Whilst the language may be new to South African’s, it is not a new concept.  Plato (c.428 – 347 BC) writes about the dignity of work.  Smith (1776), in Wealth of Nations, the book that offers one of the world’s first collected descriptions of what builds nations wealth, argues that growth achieved through increased productivity could bring higher wages, which, in turn, delivers benefits for society. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 23), adopted by the United Nations, states that:

“Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for [them]self and [their] family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.”





[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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