Workers all poorer this year

Ido Lekota

South Africa's workers have every reason to be unhappy with the current economic situation because in real terms they have become poorer in the past 12 months.

An Ipsos Markinor report released yesterday reveals that, looking at income and price trends, those who took part in yesterday's strike had a reason to do so.

The report indicates that during the period May 2007 to May 2008 food prices increased by 16,8percent while earnings per capita increased by 12percent.

During the same period fuel prices increased by 35,6percent.

This, together with the cost of goods such as medical care and health expenses, transport, housing, household operation goods and services and personal care goods, grew much faster than the 12percent earnings increase.

"This implies that workers were in real terms becoming poorer," says the report.

The situation was compounded by a 20percent increase in interest rates during the same period.

This has impacted severely on instalments being paid by workers - especially in the light of rising debt-to-income ratios among workers - and the net result is many workers with a declining ability to pay for basic goods and services.

Reasons for yesterday's strikes:

l The electricity crisis and power shortages;

l The increase in the petrol price; and

l Rising food prices.