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Thursday, March 9, 2017
WHY A MINIMUM WAGE IS A VERY BAD IDEA
Dear Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President of South Africa,
Surely the most important thing we need to do in our
country at the moment is to ensure that the millions without a job get work,
any work at any rate.
By forcing a minimum wage of R3 500 on all employers, all
you are doing is looking after the people who are already in a job when our
unemployment rate is sky high at 26% and rising.
And it could even cause some workers to lose their jobs if
their employers can’t afford the new rate. By far the worst aspect is that at thesame time it will
ensure that a lot of those without work will never, ever be able to get
Letter in The Times
In its analysis of this plan the Institute for Race
Relations also believes that it will “only further limit the access to the
labour market” for the unemployed.
which would your prefer to have; a regular job that pays say R2 000 or even
less per month or no job at all. Imagine, if you can, that you also have a wife
and two children to support and her job as a domestic came to an end because
her employer could no longer afford to pay her the minimum wage stipulated for
her category when that came into force a few years ago.
How many domestic workers lost their permanent jobs and are
now working on an hourly basis a few days a week because a minimum wage was decreed
I almost missed out on a career in journalism because of
the minimum wage for reporters that was in force in Britain when I started. Typically
it was a union idea -the National Union of Journalists.
I was 22 when I arrived there from South Africa
determined to become a journalist. The only problem was that according to what the
Union decreed an apprentice started at 17 so a
22 year old had to be paid the rate of somebody with five years experience.
Hardly surprisingly I battled to find anybody to take me
on, even though I was happy to work for just about nothing to get a foot in the
Letter in The Times
Eventually I was accepted by one of the few papers in the
country that didn’t recognise a union and nobody bothered about this because it
was so small. That’s where I started on a pittance and I was actually married
at the time.
It was a real sweat shop that consisted of the editor, a sadistic
news editor and three very green reporters – me, another guy and a girl who was
in tears almost every day. The turnover of the staff was such that after eight
months I was the most experience reporter.
It was the fastest learning school I ever experienced. For
instance on my first day in a little town I had only been in for a few days the
news editor asked me to report on an accident. He gave me the address and when
I naively asked where this was he flew into a rage and told me to damned well
look it up on the map.
You had to report just about everything that happened there
to fill the paper and if the news editor heard you had passed the registry
office without noticing the confetti in the street that showed a wedding had
taken place there was hell to pay. You would then be grilled by him and the
editor for an hour or more.
The training I got there enabled me to write for just about
all the major British newspapers as a freelance and become an investigative
journalist on The Star and the Sunday Times in Johannesburg. All of
this would not have been possible if that minimum wage had been rigidly
Of course unions love minimum wage regulations because they
do what they do best; they destroy enterprise and reduced everyone to the
lowest common denominator. They also ensure that nobody works at a rate that
will undercut their members.
Pandering to them however does nothing to ensure that the
majority have a job, any job as long as they can earn something.
Fortunately like so many of our African National Congress
master plans a minimum wage is unlikely to work because the policing will be so
bad. We have lived in the same place for the last 10 years and nobody has ever come to us to ensure that we pay our maid the required minimum.
believes that anything that stifles freedom of choice in the job market can
only be bad, very bad.