Food price hikes ‘cripple’ the poor

2015-10-08 06:00

SOUTH Africa does not have a food shortage problem – it has a food affordability problem. This is according to the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, which has found that women in low-income households bear the brunt of increases in food prices because they are unemployed or employed in the lowest-paid sectors.

The institute tracks the rise in food prices and the impact this has on low-income households through its Basic Needs Basket project.

This is a quarterly survey that examines the cost of food and non-food items, and compares these with average wages in certain sectors of the economy, such as domestic or farm work. It found that women specifically were battling to put food on the table.

Busiso Moyo, advocacy and campaigns officer with the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, said the structural economic violence of poverty and injustice is borne by women every day.

“In the context of very low wages, theirs is the lowest paid work. Yet women hold families together, children are getting fed and going to school. How they are able to do it on the little money they earn is based on a mix of savviness, ingenious debt management and complex social relationships.”

Domestic work, farm work and contract cleaning work, which employ mainly women, recorded some of the lowest wages in the economy.

In terms of sectoral determination – minimum wage requirements set by the department of labour – domestic workers in urban areas are supposed to receive not less than R2 065 a month, farm workers not less than R2 600 a month, and the lowest-paid security officer not less than R2 600 a month.

However, this is not the reality for many employed in these sectors, who often have to be content with lower wages. For those who are unemployed, the social-grant system provides some form of meagre relief.

The child support grant is R330 and the old-age grant R1 350. But with the food poverty line at R400 a month, the child support grant is often not enough to provide for women who have no other source of income.

According to Moyo, households that live on low incomes are unable to make food their top priority.

They have to first contend with household-debt repayments, which incur penalties if not serviced, as well as electricity and transport costs, before they can think about food costs.

- News 24

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