Thursday, 20 November 2014

Low Wages and High Unemployment Rate – Where to Go from Here? – Part 2

I ended my previous blog with the following paragraph:

“We’ve gotten so used to seeing Income as a function of Labor that we forget the real meaning of income as that which – if adequate – enables a person to live a dignified life. Allowing Income to remain a function of Labor alone is in fact a violation of human rights, because within this equation, we allow the possibility of some to earn an income insufficient to support themselves, or worse – no income at all. Where are human rights within such an equation? Where are our Christian values? Our Ubuntu values? Our humanitarian values? It becomes clear then that our definition of income requires a re-evaluation and a new, morally justified, foundation.”

In a world where money is life-enabling, we cannot disconnect income from human rights. When looking at guaranteeing human rights, we are therefore firstly talking about guaranteeing an adequate income. Herein the condition should not be labor, but life – we are not discussing basic labor rights, we are discussing basic human rights. All South Africans have a right to a dignified life, not only those who are currently in a position of employment. For some reason that escapes me, this basic truth has deluded us all in how we created our economic system and the society that we’ve constructed upon it. When our economic system – and the rules by which it exists – does not support human rights: do we compromise human rights to preserve the economic system or do we adjust our economic system to make provision for human rights? At the Equal Life Foundation we propose the latter: through the implementation of a Living Income Guaranteed.

We suggest working towards providing a Living Income Guaranteed (LIG) of R4500 per month to any (adult) South African who is unemployed or retired. As soon as one takes up employment, one’s LIG falls away. Perhaps, dear reader, you are now scratching hour head wondering how this would at all solve the dilemma between higher wages and higher unemployment: won’t this cause unemployment to sky-rocket to an all-time high? We have a solution for that as well. We propose that a national minimum wage be introduced that stands at double the Living Income amount, or in other words: R9000 per month. That means that any South African taking up employment, would earn *at least* R9000 per month. That would provide sufficient incentive to take up employment if one is in a position to do so. One’s level of education, one’s level of expertise, skill and responsibility would all remain factors in determining the level of one’s income as it does now, with the only difference, that the minimum wage would be set at R9000.

And perhaps now, dear read, a dozen more questions or even objections find your way into your awareness, such as for instance: how would employers be able to afford paying these higher wages, wouldn’t we be hit by massive inflation, who will pay for these living incomes, and still, would some not choose to merely live off a living income, being satisfied with satisfying basic needs without taking up employment?

The answers to these questions can be found within the Living Income Guaranteed Proposal for South Africa, so if you’ve become intrigued or curious as to what we’re proposing as a new humane economic foundation for South Africa: please do read our proposal. If anything is unclear or more questions come up, please leave a comment. And if you’re excited towards building a future for South Africa in which poverty becomes a tale of the past and opportunities for success abound, then share the proposal with your friends and acquaintances, your neighbors, your political leaders, your teachers and professors.

One thing is clear: something has to change. Human beings have the unflattering characteristic of waiting for a situation to hit rock bottom before deciding to do something about it. We suggest that would be unnecessary as a new road can be paved, starting now. We suggest we don’t wait for anything to get worse and consequences to reach everyone – our future is in our hands – we can yell and scream about our problems as much as we like, but solutions will not magically be handed to us. Let’s rather then make a big noise about solutions that can be readily implemented such as the Living Income Guaranteed proposal – to lift all South Africans out of poverty, once and for all. 


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