The minimum wage traps unemployed people in poverty

Xolile Mpini

Sun May 22 2022 22:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

A caring government would listen to the unemployed people whom they claim to represent and put to the test the proposed solutions that will address the scourge of unemployment. The government must write our proposed Job Seekers Exemption Certificate into law and any unemployed individual must be able to voluntarily apply for it.

Since the National Minimum Wage was introduced in South Africa, the unemployment rate increases quarter by quarter, and the doors of employment are permanently closed. There are about fourteen (14) million plus, vulnerable, and hopeless unemployed people who are unable to enter the labour market. They are blocked by the National Minimum Wage.

Unemployed people in villages and townships are involved in crime and smoking all sorts of drugs. Others resort to committing suicide as they cannot endure the trauma and depression caused by their status of unemployment. The main cause of these social ills is the National Minimum Wage. Its implementation made it very difficult for the unemployed people to participate meaningfully in the restoration of their dignity and enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Our suspicion is that the law makers do not have the interests of the unemployed people at heart. Their intention is to deliberately keep the unemployed people unemployed and give them grants so that they can be seen as caring. However, deep down they want to maintain their voting block which by the way is shrinking every five years.

What is worse and disgusting is that an institution like the South African Human Rights Commission, who are supposed to protect the human rights of the unemployed people, is failing in its duties. The SAHRC refused flatly to investigate our complaint against Parliament. The only thing they specialise in, is to chase cases of purported racism and they will run like headless chickens to attend to such nonsensical cases.

It is in the interests of the unemployed people that Parliament respect the “right to dignity” as enshrined in the Bill of Rights and in this instance a law such as the National Minimum Wage violates the right to dignity of the unemployed people.

Sometimes it makes no sense to us that the government will be willing to give the unemployed people grants for doing absolutely nothing, and at the same time refuse the unemployed people a right to negotiate basic conditions of employment and wages that best suit both the potential employer and the unemployed individual. And to do so outside the ambit of the labour and national minimum wage law. This is clear proof that labour policies are unfairly discriminating against unemployed people. Instead of helping the unemployed they are stopping them from getting jobs.

A caring government would listen to the unemployed people whom they claim to represent and put to the test the proposed solutions that will address the scourge of unemployment. The government must write our proposed Job Seekers Exemption Certificate into law and any unemployed individual must be able to voluntarily apply for it. The Job Seekers Exemption Certificate can be used as a legal document that releases long term unemployed people from the shackles of unemployment by removing the barriers to entry into the labour market that violently keep the poorest South Africans out of the labour market. And it will do that without affecting the protection that the labour laws give to those who are already employed.

Author:
Xolile Mpini
CEO of the Langeberg Unemployed Forum