minimum wage

Image via Adobe Stock

South Africa’s minimum wage compared to other countries

In a report focusing on the minimum wages in 54 different countries, South Africa has ranked just below Peru.

minimum wage

Image via Adobe Stock

In a report focusing on minimum wages in 54 different countries around the world, South Africa’s has remained unchanged in 2020 and has ranked just above Brazil and below Peru. 

South Africa’s minimum wage as of early 2020, has tallied in at $235 which converts to an iota of R3 400.23. 

By definition, the minimum wage should protect employees against unduly low earnings. released a report, comparing how the minimum wage rates have changed in various countries in 2020. The report also distinguished whether the minimum income is enough to afford the minimum comfort of living. 

Top ten highest minimum wage countries 

The top ten countries with the “best” minimum wage are: 

  1. Luxembourg
  2. Australia
  3. Ireland 
  4. Netherlands
  5. United Kingdom 
  6. South Korea 
  7. Canada 
  8. Belgium 
  9. Germany  
  10. France  

Top ten lowest minimum wage countries 

  1. Uzbekistan 
  2. Nigeria 
  3. India 
  4. Kazakhstan 
  5. Armenia 
  6. Pakistan 
  7. Philippines 
  8. Moldova 
  9. Azerbaijan 
  10. Russia

Where does South Africa rank?

The countries with a minimum wage that fell in the bracket of between $200 and $300 are: 

  1. Serbia at $284 (R4 094.94)
  2. Bulgaria at $268 (R3 864.53)
  3. North Macedonia at $261 (R3 763.59)
  4. Malaysia at $255 (R3 677.07)
  5. Argentina at $253 (R3 648.23)
  6. Peru at $245 (R3 533.08)
  7. South Africa at $235 (R3 388.88)
  8. Brazil at $230 (R3 316.77)
  9. Thailand at $223 (R3 215.83)
  10. Turkmenistan at $208 (R2 999.52) 

South Africa ranks outside of the top ten highest and top ten lists and ranks seventh out of the countries with a minimum wage of between R3 000 and R4 000. 

Low minimum wage in Nigeria despite hefty increase  

The highest year-to-year increase in the minimum wage was noted in Nigeria at 65% in 2020, compared to 2019. However, there’s a catch-after converting it into US dollars. The amount is still found to be one of the lowest at just $74. This converts to a mere R1 069.40.   

South Africa’s food prices exceed minimum wage 

The shopping basket created for the purpose of this report consists of eight items: Bread, milk, eggs, rice, cheese, meat, fruit and vegetables. Even though this list is short and frugal, these products meet the nutritional needs of an adult and their prices are constantly monitored around the world.

At the beginning of 2020, food prices from the list are as follows:

  • Milk (10 litres) — R141.50
  • Bread (10 loaves, 500 g each) — R129.80
  • Rice (1.5 kg) — R30.29
  • Eggs (20) — R46.95
  • Cheese (1 kg) — R99.51
  • Poultry and beef (6 kg) — R500.43
  • Fruits (6 kg) — R122.40
  • Vegetables (8 kg) — R132.76

The total price of basic food products amounts to R1 203.64, which is 3.84% more than in the previous year.

The basic shopping basket makes 34.8% of the minimum net pay. With 2019’s prices, the same products made 33.5% of the minimum wage at that time. This means that, in South Africa, the increase in prices outran the increase in wages.

Food spend around the world

There are just as many different ways to spend money as there are definitions of the comfort of living. Prices of the same food products were compared in various countries, as well as how much of someone’s budget one would need to be spent on those essential food items. 

In this comparison, South Africa placed 37th. The best ratio of food prices to the minimum wage was noted in Australia, followed by the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland. In these countries, the basic food products are worth around 7% of the minimum wage.

Lower in the ranking was Pakistan (39th place), Mexico (43rd place), Russia (44th place) and India (49th place).

In some countries, such as Nigeria or Uzbekistan, it is so low that it does not cover the costs of even the most basic shopping basket.