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South Africa’s minimum wage R20 an hour? Not for all workers, and rate reviewed each year

“Did you know that in South Africa the minimum wage is R3,500 monthly or R20 per hour?” asks a message posted on Facebook in South Africa on 8 September 2020. “If you get less than that, contact me.” 

Except the lowest amount employers may pay workers in South Africa is more complicated than this, and is no longer exactly R20 an hour.

Here’s a brief guide to minimum wages in South Africa.

National minimum wage raised in 2020

When South Africa’s National Minimum Wage Act came into effect on 1 January 2019, it set the minimum wage at “R20 for each ordinary hour worked”.

This amount does not include extra benefits such as accommodation, other “payment in kind”, travel expenses or tips.

The act does not set a minimum monthly salary, but it does say that “if the worker is paid on a basis other than the number of hours worked,” they must be paid at least the minimum wage for each hour of work.

Earning R3,500 at R20 an hour would require 175 hours of work a month. That’s just under nine hours a day in a month with 20 working days.

So far, the Facebook post seems correct. But it leaves out two important factors.

The first is that the national minimum wage is reviewed, and may be adjusted, each year. On 1 March 2020 the minimum was raised to R20.76 an hour.

Exceptions to minimum wage

The post’s second omission is that not all workers in South Africa are entitled to the R20.76 minimum wage. Certain jobs have separate minimums, also set down in the national minimum wage act and adjusted annually.

The act applies to all workers “except members of the South African National Defence Force, the National Intelligence Agency and the South African Secret Service”. No minimum wage is set for employees in these agencies.

And the minimum wage for specific workers is lower. Farm workers are only entitled to a minimum of R18.68 an hour, and domestic workers to R15.57 an hour. 

For those “employed on an expanded public works programme”, the minimum is R11.42 an hour. And people enrolled in learnership programmes may earn a weekly allowance based on the qualification level of the programme.

South Africa’s national minimum wage was initially R20 an hour, but has since risen to R20.76, does not apply to all jobs, and doesn’t necessarily equate to a salary of R3,500 a month. – Keegan Leech


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