Picture: Andrew Moses/IOL

Bloemfontein - President Cyril Ramaphosa has admitted that the proposed national minimum wage of R20 per hour is still too little but it should be viewed as a starting point to pave way for higher wages.

Ramaphosa said those opposed to the wage saying it's too low were right but urged them to understand that the aim of the proposed wage is to lift the lowly paid from poverty by ensuring they earn a living wage.

The president said this when he delivered the keynote speech during the Freedom Day celebrations at Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium in Bloemfontein on Friday.

"Some people have argued that the starting minimum wage of R20 an hour is not a living wage. They are correct," said Ramaphosa.

"Some argue that the national minimum wage will not end income inequality. They too are correct. But what the national minimum wage does provide is a firm and unassailable foundation – which is agreed to by all social partners – from which to advance the struggle for a living wage. We must remember that the introduction of the national minimum wage will increase the income of about 6.6 million working South Africans who are presently earning very little," he added. 

Ramaphosa told the gathering, which saw some people staging a protest over the lack of jobs in the country, that a wage increase of that size and extent was unprecedented in South Africa and must be celebrated.

"The national minimum wage is like a great hill that we have climbed, but we dare not linger, because there are still many more hills to climb," he told the gathering.

Parliament is currently finalising the legislation for the implementation of the national minimum wage. This will be the first time that the country will have such a law.