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Minimum Wage

A Tale of Two Impacts: Minimum Wage Outcomes in South Africa

Haroon Bhorat's picture

Worker pruning fruit trees Economist and Nobel Prize laureate James M. Buchanan remarked to the Wall Street Journal in 1996 that "Just as no physicist would claim that "water runs uphill”, no self-respecting economist would claim that increases in the minimum wage increase employment."  Of course this statement remains broadly true today, but the advent of better data, improved statistal techniques and the proliferation of country studies – have made economists far more careful about pre-judging the impact of minimum wages on employment and wages.  Indeed, in a now famous study of fast food restaurants in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, David Card and Alan Krueger showed how the imposition of a minimum wage had no significant disemployment effects, and in some cases increased employment, arising out of a large enough increase in demand for the firms’ products.
The evidence for South Africa, some twenty years after the demise of apartheid, is equally compelling.  In a two-part study, my co-authors and I find an intriguing set of contrasting economic outcomes, from the imposition of a series of sectoral minimum wage laws.  In South Africa, the minimum wage setting body, known as the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC), advises the Minister of Labour on appropriate and feasible minimum wages for different sectors or sub-sectors in the economy.  Currently, the economy has in place 11 such sectoral minimum wage laws in sectors ranging from Agriculture and Domestic Work, to Retail and Private Security.

Let Good Sense Prevail in Bangladesh’s Garment Industry

Zahid Hussain's picture

The garment industry in Bangladesh has been subject to several tests of resilience in recent years—global recession, energy shortage, input price increases, and labor unrest. Of late, the labor unrest has escalated apparently triggered by disagreement over re-fixation of minimum wage. The workers, for quite some time now, have been pressing for adjustment in minimum wage that was last increased in 2006, after 12 years, from Tk. 930* (about $60 in PPP) per month to Tk. 1,662 (about $108 in PPP) per month. The government in April 2010 committed that a new pay-scale for the RMG workers will be announced before Ramadan, and formed a Wage Board for making the wage recommendations. For reasons not yet fully understood, the labor unrest was reignited recently without waiting to hear what the Wage Board’s recommendations are. However, it is abundantly clear that dissatisfaction with the nominal level of the minimum wage is at the center of the discord between garment owners and workers.