Global wages grew by 1.8% in 2017. It is the lowest rate in nine years, after having grown by 2.4% in 2016. This is contained in the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) two-yearly Global Wage Report that was released on Monday afternoon.

The report is published at a time when President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law the National Minimum Wage Bill, which seeks to decrease huge disparities in income in the national labour market. The National Minimum Wage Act sets South Africa’s first National Minimum Wage at R20 an hour – equivalent to R3 500 per month.

But the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) has rejected this outright – saying it stands ready to mobilise its members against the National Minimum Wage.

Government says the bill sets a historic precedent in the protection of low-earning workers and provides a platform for reducing inequality in society and decreasing huge disparities in income in the national labour market.

Numsa is adamant that the bill is meant to further the black working class into deeper poverty. The Union says President Cyril Ramaphosa has legalised slave wages and confirmed to SA corporates that it is okay to exploit African workers and pay them low wages.

Meanwhile, the ILO’s report finds that global wages in 2017 were at their lowest since 2008. The ILO says in the last 20 years average real wages have almost tripled in emerging and developing G20 countries, while in advanced G20 countries they have increased by just 9%.

In many low and middle-income economies however, wage inequality remains high and wages are frequently insufficient to cover the needs of workers and their families.

However, it has welcomed South Africa’s introduction of the National Minimum Wage due to come into effect in 2019. The report has also found that, globally, women continue to be paid 20% less than men.

It says one of the factors that weigh on the gender gap is motherhood… that mothers tend to have lower wages compared to non-mothers. This it says may be related to a host of factors such as stereotypical promotion decisions at enterprise level.

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