President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Johannesburg - The enactment of the Minimum Wage Bill has been welcomed by workers and trade unions, but some economists have questioned the timing.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday that millions of South Africans would be eligible to earn a minimum of R20 an hour or R3500 a month. The bill was signed on November 23 last year and came into effect on January 1.

Cosatu said this would offer a solid foundation for workers. “This is part of addressing issues of economic growth with regard to income distribution and unemployment. We don't understand why it is important to have an economy where workers produce goods and can't afford them,” said Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

Fedusa said the announcement came at a time when workers were struggling to make ends meet. “We are happy that our people will never be exploited. At least this will force every employer to pay that required R20 an hour,” said Fedusa spokesperson Dennis George.

“To be honest, there's never been a right time to introduce this bill because there will always be people criticising it, despite the current economic conditions. We are happy that about 6.2 million people will benefit from this bill.”

However, economist Chris Hart was not convinced about the timing of the announcement, saying it was a strategy for the ANC to score votes in the May elections. “I don't have a problem with the minimum wage if we have policies to end poverty. The problem is, we need to create more jobs at the moment. The unemployment rate is the biggest issue,” said Hart.

Meanwhile, the lowest-paid workers, such as petrol attendants and domestic workers, said it provided much-needed relief. “At least R20 per hour will make a difference because I was not surviving with the money I am earning. I was struggling to pay rent and look after my children,” said a 33-year-old petrol attendant, who did not want to be named.

Matlakala Tabile, a 50-year-old domestic worker, cautiously welcomed the announcement. The mother of three said it was difficult to make ends meet with the little she made.

“It's even hard to buy food. I think this will make a difference,” said Tabile.

Political Bureau