‘SA income disparity needs to be urgently addressed,’ demand unions

todayDecember 4, 2023 124

share close

Labour federations have reiterated the call for the inequality pay curse that’s been dogging South Africa for decades to be urgently addressed.

According to a 2022 World Bank report, South Africa has the highest income inequality in the world, which has risen in the post-apartheid period, though it has fluctuated. It is also the most unequal country in the world, where only 10% of the population owns more than 80% of the country’s wealth.

Labour federations, Cosatu and Saftu, say the scourge can no longer be ignored.

South Africa’s largest labour federation, Cosatu, says the wage gap is one of the major contributing factors the inability to overcome the crippling legacy of apartheid and poverty.

Cosatu’s Mathew Parks says while things have improved in the public sector, the private sector has its work cut out for it.

“To grow the economy, workers need to be paid well so that they can be able to buy food, pay for transport and healthcare. To enjoy a better quality of life. Wee need to amend the Companies’ Law, which is before Parliament and will compel companies to disclose the wage gap between the highest and lowest paid workers,” says Parks.


The South African Federation of Unions (Saftu) says women and Black workers are the most affected by pay inequalities.

“We know that there is a gap that continues to grow as a result of the divisions in the share of the surplus value created in the economy and amongst the enterprises. This has shown to have grown  from 300 times more pay for the CEO than the average worker which was the main rate in the 1970’s.”


Shaku estimates that it will take over 1 000 years for an average worker to earn what the employer earns, which, he says, is very concerning for Saftu.


On Thursday, former Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng, also raised concern over the “rife” pay disparities in the private sector.

Delivering his address at the SAfm Inaugural Lecture, Mogoeng slammed the media for failing to hold the private sector accountable for the continued headache.

“It’s even worse. The focus in this country when we talk about corruption is on government officials, what is happening in the private sector? Why is it that we hardly ever have a story running from January to December about corruption in the private sector. It is in the private sector where we are being told to address pay disparities when people are earning hundreds of millions of rands and their employees are earning close to nothing.”


Labour analyst, Terry Bell, has urged for more to be done to address the jobs gap that has South African young people out of jobs and frustrated.

He also blamed government for the continued gender payment gap, saying government is only paying lip service on the matter.

According to the latest World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, South African women are paid between 23% and 35% less than men doing the same job and Stats SA estimates that the country’s gender wage gap is at 30% across the board.

Bell believes that instead of the situation getting better – the cycle is continuing with young women bearing the brunt of the lack of will to address the situation.

Written by: Nonhlanhla Harris

Rate it