A fair level of pay for platform workers means going beyond a minimum wage to see those workers paid a living wage. But what is a living wage; what justifies its payment; and – as a guide to Fairwork’s activity in South Africa – what level should it be set at?
What is a Living Wage?
A living wage is remuneration sufficient for a basic but decent standard of living for a worker and his/her family. “Elements of a decent standard of living include food, water, housing, education, health care, transport, clothing, and other essential needs, including provision for unexpected events”.
Why Pay a Living Wage?
Societal rationales include the moral argument of not denying workers enough to meet basic needs, and contribution to UN Sustainable Development Goals including reduction of inequality in South Africa. Platform rationales include evidence linking living wage payments to improved reputation, improved worker productivity and performance, lower worker turnover/absenteeism, and better manager—worker relations.
How Much is a Living Wage?
There is general acceptance that South African minimum wage levels are well below those necessary for a “basic but decent standard of living”. We propose a living wage of R6,590 per month in 2019, based on a triangulation of sources as shown in the figure below. We note the challenge that living costs differ for every worker so that a single figure represents a difficult compromise that will underpay some.
A portable version of this document is available for dissemination, and should be cited as:
Heeks, R., Fredman, S., du Toit, D., Osiki, A., Van Belle, J.-P., Graham, M., Mungai, P. & Woodcock, J. (2019) A Living Wage for South African Platform Workers, Fairwork
 E.g. https://www.trustforlondon.org.uk/documents/125/Living-wage-costs-and-benefits-FULL.pdf; https://www.ethicaltrade.org/issues/living-wage-workers; https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.0019-8676.2004.00370.x
 https://tradingeconomics.com/south-africa/living-wage-individual; https://living-wage.co.za/ – corrected for inflation; https://wageindicator.org/salary/living-wage/south-africa-living-wage-series-december-2018 (minimum for standard family)