25 Apr Mind the GAP: South African Wage Gap
According to Census 2011, South Africa’s population has reached 51.77-million. Black Africans accounted for 41-million, making up 79.2% of the total population. The coloured population stood at 4.6 million (8.9%), while there are 4.6 million (8.9%) white people. In 2011 Oxfam (UK-based charity) noted that five million mainly white people were earning six times more than the 25 million mainly black South Africans.
The National Minimum Wage Research Initiative’s (NMW-RI) suggest that based on international benchmarks, South Africa should have a minimum wage of between R4,000 and R5,500.
“There are different kinds of justice. Retributive justice is largely Western. The African understanding is far more restorative – not so much to punish as to redress or restore a balance that has been knocked askew.”
– Desmond Tutu
Showcased are the differences in median earnings, as well as within the upper and lower percentiles.
South Africa has one of the biggest pay gaps in the world – with CEOs of the JSE’s top listed companies earning as much as 725 times (Mergence Investment Managers 2014) their workers’ average salary. On top of this, it was estimated that in 2015, South African women earned approximately 34% less than their male counterparts for doing the same job. On average a South African woman would need to work two months more than a man to earn the equivalent salary that he would earn in a year. Adding to this, there is a significant difference between the average pay of black and white professionals in South Africa.
Earlier this year the signing ceremony for increasing the national minimum wage was awkwardly halted when Cosatu requested more time to consult with the Central Executive Committee. For me, this is important because while the raise of the minimum wage won’t affect me it will affect people around me; like my domestic worker, our gardener, the security guard that protects the complex where I live and my dear friend at work who is also our tea lady.
Percentage pay differential between the average of the top management level (executives) in small-cap to medium-cap companies and the lowest paid workers.
|Country||Basic salary labour vs Executive differential multiple||Total Gross Compensation labour vs Executive differential multiple
The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Remuneration Trends Report – Southern Africa.
For large-cap companies listed on the JSE’s, the pay gap can reach as high as 300 times.
One of the biggest cornerstones of our South African Constitution is the right to dignity.
Is it dignified to pay someone so little that there is no hope for them to build a life, let alone feed themselves?
If you’re a white South African, I want to take a moment here and challenge you to CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE. If you are still unclear on what privilege (in any context) means, have a look at this video put together by Dennis Ngango (South African youth ambassador). Always remember that the nitty-gritty of privilege lies in understanding one’s own privilege, and realising that there are certain institutionalised forms of oppression that you don’t face and possibly never will. I urge you to put on your intersectionality lenses and recognise that the South African economic climate and especially the socioeconomic intersections of class, race, and gender, etc. makes certain South Africans vulnerable to being treated differently, especially within the workplace.
Ground-Up published an article in late 2016 about the massive pay gap, specifically referencing the inconsistency between a deli worker at Checkers and Whitey Basson (Chief Executive of the Shoprite Group). “Basson was paid R49.7 million in basic pay and a special performance bonus of R50 million in the financial year to June. The group said he had not had a pay increase since 2013.” The deli worker (works a 9 hour shift) takes home R550 a week, around R28 600 a year. There isn’t a clearer example of institutionalised oppression. How will this deli worker ever afford to send her children to school, not even to mention university?
The South African government is most likely to increase the minimum wage to a mere R3500 per month (R42 000 per annum). To understand just how sad and atrocious the minimum wage for different industry sectors in South Africa is, see a full breakdown on Mywage.co.za.
Are you proud to live in a country where the majority still struggle to support themselves? The Desmond Tutu quote highlighted in the beginning of this article was made back in November 1996. I think it’s long overdue for us to acknowledge the existence of our institutionalised forms of oppression and to strive towards restoring the balance. As a white South African, I know I have a duty to be an ally to those people of colour who are fighting the fight and I think you do too.
I’ll leave you with this statement from an article published on the I-Project Blog: How To Be An Ally: A Guide for Woke White People, White People Who Want To Be Woke, and WOC Who Can Empathise –
“In order to be an ally, it is important that you remain politically aware (woke). It is important that you are educated enough to assist marginalised groups that may need help advocating for themselves because of systemic oppression. You can’t drop the movement. Consistency is key. We cannot drop the movement because it is a fight for our lives. You shouldn’t either. A good way to educate yourself is to listen. Try to understand our struggles and support us. Listen to us. Fight with us. Create safe spaces for POC (people of colour). Be an ally.”