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Protests grip South Africa as introduction of minimum income dubbed 'poverty wage' is delayed

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks at a rally on February 11, 2018, in Cape Town.

Rodger Bosch | AFP | Getty Images

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks at a rally on February 11, 2018, in Cape Town.

“The president recognizes that the national minimum wage is not a living wage, but we need to start somewhere,” Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman Khusela Diko said, as reported by Reuters.

SAFTU, the second-largest group of its kind in the country, instead proposes a living wage of R12,500 per month — three times that of the intended minimum wage in monthly terms.

South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world. According to the World Bank, the poorest 20 percent of South Africans consume less than 3 percent of the country’s total expenditure. Meanwhile, the wealthiest 20 percent account for 65 percent.

Wages aside, the nation is also known for its rampant unemployment, currently at 26.7 percent according to Statistics South Africa.

But not all trade unions back the protests. Matthew Parks, deputy parliamentary co-ordinator of the Congress of South African Trade Unions — the largest of such groups — described the R20 minimum wage as a “huge victory” given that businesses had originally pushed for R11.

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