President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law the National Minimum Wage Bill which sets an historic precedent in the protection of low-earning workers and provides a platform for reducing inequality in society and decreasing huge disparities in income in the national labour market.
The National Minimum Wage Act will come into force on a date to be determined by the President by proclamation. The Act sets a floor of R20 per hour for the majority of the country's workers, which will raise the earnings of an estimated six million South Africans - more than half of the labour force - who earn below this level at present.
The National Minimum Wage Act sets South Africa's first national minimum wage at R20 an hour - equivalent to R3 500 per month, depending on the number of hours worked - and creates a phase-in period for farm workers, forestry workers, domestic workers, welfare sector and care workers, due to their vulnerability to disemployment.
The President's signing of the new law comes four years, to the month, after the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) first began deliberations on the protection of low-paid workers; fair and effective competition in the labour market, and the challenges of labour instability, caused by violent strikes and the duration of strikes, and wage inequality.
Following these deliberations and recommendations by an advisory panel chaired by Prof Imraan Valodia of the University of the Witwatersrand, President Ramaphosa has also assented to the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and Labour Relations Amendment Bill which were negotiated by Nedlac at the same time as the National Minimum Wage.
Taken together, these Bills introduce a National Minimum Wage and provide for the technical arrangements needed to support implementation of the NMW.
The National Minimum Wage Act recognises South Africa as one of the most unequal societies and notes the need to eradicate poverty and inequality.
President Ramaphosa has reiterated his appreciation to all stakeholders engaged in the development of the legislation for their focus on creating a new dispensation for the country's most vulnerable workers and for bringing South Africa into line with international best practice.
The President has also underscored that while national minimum wage will not end income inequality, it provides a firm and unassailable foundation - which is agreed to by all social partners - from which to advance the struggle for a living wage.
ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA