‘Minimum wage should create opportunities for the unemployed’

Agri SA has called on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Commission to move its focus on the national minimum wage to the unemployed and the creation of job opportunities.

‘Minimum wage should create opportunities for the unemployed’
A diversified wage structure rather than a national minimum wage would enable farmers to hire inexperienced workers at a lower rate than that paid for experienced farmworkers, according to Christo van der Rheede.
Photo: Annelie Coleman

Agri SA has called on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) Commission to move its focus on the national minimum wage to the unemployed and the creation of job opportunities.

Commenting on the recent proposal by the commission to increase the minimum wage to R23/ hour, Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA, said the commission would be wise to give serious consideration to the implementation of a diversified wage structure.

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This would create significantly more scope for employment in the agriculture sector by creating opportunities to hire inexperienced workers at a lower rate than that for experienced and advanced farmworkers.

“Although local agriculture performed well in 2021, it must be kept in mind that the positive growth is limited to only a few sectors. Large parts of the country’s crop-producing areas suffered vast flood damage, while other parts just came out of a prolonged drought.

“Given the sharp increase in input costs such as fertiliser, fuel and agricultural chemicals, farmers will find it very hard to afford a wage of R23/hour for inexperienced new workers. The fact of the matter is that South African farmers are, generally speaking, price-takers left at the mercy of the market at large,” Van der Rheede told Farmer’s Weekly.

According to him, millions of unemployed young workers in South Africa were desperately looking for jobs. It made financial, economic and socio-economic sense to create opportunities for them to enter the job market at an alternative wage.

He added that it did not make sense for the sector to employ inexpert and untried workers at the same wage paid to those with a long and proven track record in the industry.

According to the recently published NMW proposal, the new wage would be based at the consumer price index plus 1%, which would take the rate to R23/hour. The current minimum wage was R21,69/hour. The commission also recommended that domestic workers’ salaries be increased to 100% of the NMW.

Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.