South Africa at the time of the national minimum wage

Released from the recession in the summer of 2018, the African giant seeks to reduce the significant income inequalities that affect the population.

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Shell Service Station, Melville, South Africa, May 28, 2013. Christian Science Monitor / Christian Science Monitor / Getty

Twenty rand an hour, or € 1.25, or € 219 per month for a forty-hour week: this is the new minimum wage that came into effect on January 1 in South Africa. But on one of the streets of Melville, a trendy area of ​​Johannesburg run for bars and restaurants, Mpumelelo (the first name has been changed), which unloads a delivery truck, is not aware. "I'm paid 17 rand an hour. Our bosses usually raise our salaries in January, but for now they have not said anything to us, "he explains, a carton of chips and juice bricks in his arms.

The 36-year-old South African works forty-five hours a week, "sometimes more when you're stuck in traffic jams," and is struggling to make ends meet. "We're always having money from someone, sometimes crooked people, it's tiring. So, yes, if we increase, it will make a difference, but I'm waiting to see, "he explains, with caution.

Presented as a historic breakthrough, demanded by trade unions since the fall of apartheid in the 1990s, the introduction of a "national minimum wage" is greeted with some indifference in the country of Nelson Mandela. Until then, income thresholds were negotiated at the branch and occupation level and set by the Ministry of Labor, with in fact huge wage differentials depending on the social strata.

In South Africa, the entry into force of the minimum wage should benefit 6 million workers

South Africa thus holds the Gini coefficient - used to measure income inequality in one country - the highest in the world at 0.63, according to a World Bank report released in March 2018. "50% of households receive 8% of national income, while 10% of the richest households share 55% of national income, " the report notes. Inheritance of apartheid, social inequalities are coupled with racial inequalities: the median monthly salary is 10,000 rand (about 627 euros) among the white minority, against 2,800 rand (175 euros) among the black majority, according to the South African Institute of Race Relations. A gulf that has worsened: 40% of South Africans lived below the poverty line in 2015 against 36.1% in 2011.

Unemployment peaks at 27% of the labor force