South Africa is Considering Minimum Wage

South Africa recently announced that it's considering a national minimum wage. The government proposed wage of R3,500 per month ($267.23 USD), or R20 an hour ($1.53 USD), is a small sum for Africa's most advanced economy, but close to the median income in a country where nearly half the population lives in poverty. If passed, the new wage laws could go into effect by May 2018.  

Today, most advanced countries have some form of minimum wage laws but there are a handful without. Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Cyprus have no national minimum wage but rely on unions, trade groups, and employer groups to set minimum earnings through collective bargaining. Germany only recently passed minimum wage laws in 2015. Other countries without minimum wage laws are Hong Kong, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Chile.  


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New Zealand passed the world’s first national minimum wage laws in 1894, which covered all businesses and every industry across the country. Australia followed a few years later, but only covered the six industries known for paying low wages. By 1904, Australia's wage laws had expanded to 150 industries. Today, Australians earn the highest minimum wage in the developed world, a rate of $17.29 per hour as of 2015.  

Twenty-five years prior to the United States passing a national minimum wage, the state of Massachusetts enacted a minimum wage law applicable to women and children under 18. A national minimum wage followed in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The rate was set at 0.25 cents per hour, the equivalent of $4.19 per hour in 2017. Since FDR introduced the nation's first federal minimum wage, it has been raised 22 times by 12 different presidents. 

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