On Friday, 8 September 2023, SERI made a submission to the National Minimum Wage Commission concerning possible adjustments to the national minimum wage for 2024. The commission will consider representations made to it before it publishes its annual report and recommendations on the annual review of the national minimum wage later in the year.
SERI’s submission focusses on discussing the impact of food insecurity and the implications for the minimum wage.
The impact of rising inflation has been felt by all groups in South Africa. In March 2023, South Africa’s food inflation reached a 14-year high at 14,4%. The most notable food groups affected include vegetables for which prices have increased by 20,5%, grain products like maize, bread and cereals (20,3%), plant-based oils and fats (16%), milk and eggs (13,6%) and meat (10,6%). However, data from StatsSA shows that the poorest households suffered the highest inflation rate: from April 2022 to April 2023 the cost of living for the poorest households rose from around 6% to 11,3%, in comparison to an increase from around 5,5% to 7,8% for wealthier households. This is due to the sharp increases in food prices which impacted on poorer households the most because they spend approximately half of their annual budgets on food and non-alcoholic beverages, whereas for wealthier households, that proportion is 11%.
SERI submits that food insecurity is a critical lens through which the national minimum wage must be viewed. At the present quantum, the national minimum wage is insufficient to address the immediate needs of food security for the precarious worker. Sufficient quality and quantity of food needed to sustain a low-income household remains out of reach for those who earn the minimum wage. This forces precarious workers to employ coping strategies to stave of hunger, often compromising their physical health in the process.
Consequently, SERI’s key recommendation in this submission is that the adjustment to the minimum wage should take into consideration rising food prices as even those in low-income employment, such as domestic workers and farm workers, are struggling to meet their basic needs.
- Download the full submission here.