President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Port Elizabeth - President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the National Minimum Wage will be effective from January 1, 2019.

"We are here to declare that from 1 January 2019 the national minimum wage shall be introduced. No worker in South Africa may be paid below the national minimum wage," Ramaphosa said while addressing stakeholders in Kliptown, Soweto.

"This is a great achievement for working people in South Africa who have endured decades of exploitation."

The president acknowledged the R20 an hour or R3 500 a month minimum pay was not a living wage but said government and its social partners, including labour and business, had to strike a balance between improving the income of South Africa's lowest-paid workers and the need to increase employment levels in the country. 

"The social partners agreed on this starting level because the available evidence showed that it would not lead to widespread lay-offs but at the same time would increase the earnings of as many as six million working South Africans."

Ramaphosa said it was hoped the national minimum wage would act as an instrument of economic stimulus.

"We should expect that this additional income will contribute to greater consumption and higher demand, contributing in turn to greater economic growth and more jobs," he said.

Chairperson of the portfolio committee on labour, Lemias Mashile, said on Friday that the National Minimum Wage was passed by both houses of Parliament but while the committee said that it was a "reasonable beginning", a lot more would need to be done so that workers could earn "the desired living wage". 

"The implementation of the minimum wage is another step in closing the huge inequality that is prevalent in the country. The committee is of the view that the minimum wage will improve the lives of many families that have been earning less and will contribute in stimulating the economy as a result of increased participation by many in the country," Mashile said. 

The committee has called on employers to implement the minimum wage and for the labour department to ensure adherence to the new law through monitoring mechanisms. 

"The committee remains of the view that a happy labour market is essential if the country is to grow economically. This is important if the country is to succeed in fighting the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality," Mashile said.

African News Agency (ANA)