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Wages in SA grow, but still unequal

Dec 11 2012 16:30 Adiel Ismail
Striking farm workers demand that their daily wage

Striking farm workers demand that their daily wage of R70 be increased to R150. (AFP)

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Cape Town - Real average wages increased by nearly 10% in South Africa, but wage growth remains unequally distributed, according to the latest global wage report of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The 2012/13 ILO Global Wage Report presents data on trends in wages and compares them with trends in labour productivity.

Patrick Belser, senior economist and lead author of the report, said that declining shares of income for workers of each country surveyed has affected perceptions of what is fair, particularly given the huge earnings of some company executives.

The report showed that in Africa, the real average wage growth has remained far below pre-crisis levels globally, while it went into the red in developed economies.

The personal distribution of wages has also become more unequal, with a growing gap between the top
10% and the bottom 10% of wage earners.

While wages grew significantly in emerging economies, differences in wage levels remain considerable, the report said.

"In the Philippines, a worker in the manufacturing sector took home around US$1.40 for each hour worked. In Brazil, the hourly direct pay in the sector was $5.40, in Greece it was $13.00, in the United States $23.30 and
in Denmark $34.80."

The report also noted that data on wages in Africa was sparse with only a few countries, such as Botswana, Egypt, Lesotho, Mauritius, South Africa and Uganda, participating in wage surveys in order to measure the evolution of earnings.

According to the report, in Madagascar more than 80% of waged and salaried workers were poor, with more than half living in extreme poverty. In Mozambique and Burundi over 60% of employees were living in poverty, while in the Republic of the Congo over 50% of employees were poor. The latest figures quoted for these countries were for 2005.

The ILO called for wages to grow in line with productivity and urged more countries to adopt minimum wage policies and collective bargaining to protect vulnerable employees.

It also was recommended that to raise average labour productivity, education should be prioritised combined with policies for job creation.  

The focus on education was also highlighted in by African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka on his visit in November to the ILO headquarters in Geneva. He said African youth's access to quality education are key to creating sustainable jobs on the continent.

He added that job creation and sustainable employment was "the biggest challenge" facing African countries.  

South Africa has recently been hit with a wave of wage strikes in the mining, transport and the agricultural sectors.

Earlier this month, that South Africa government vowed to increase the visibility of its inspection and enforcement services to ensure that employers comply with all labour laws.

The decision followed the 2011 results of blitz inspections done nationally that showed that of the 1 174 workplaces visited, more than 60% were not complying with labour laws.

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