Zimbabwe workers earning 12% of family basket

Zimbabweans are struggling to put food on the table as the minimum wage in the country does not even cover basic necessities. Photo by Christopher Mahove.

Food prices have gone up in Zimbabwe whilst the minimum wage has remained stagnant.

The estimate amount a Zimbabwean family of six needs to pay for the basics rose by 45% for the month of September to approximately ZWL21,000 (R1,078). Workers earning the country’s minimum wage of just over ZWL2,500 can thus afford just 12 percent of the family basket.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president, Peter Gift Mutasa, said the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) family basket, despite its understatement of a number of items, showed how the cost of living in Zimbabwe has gone beyond many workers’ incomes.

“The minimum wage that is gazetted by the government is ZWL2,549. This is only 12 percent of the basket and can cover bread and cooking oil only in the food basket,” Mutasa said

He scorned the CCZ’s estimation of rent costs, saying there is nowhere one can rent three rooms for $23 (R384) as just one room costs between $15 (R250) and $20 (R334).

Mutasa maintains that the valuation of the family basket, when compared to how much workers are earning, exposes just how desperate the situation for workers is. Domestic workers earn ZWL900 (R46), a measly four percent of the basket.

“Even in colonial Rhodesia this was not allowed. Workers and their families are starving; many have no basic clothing and many face evictions. It is pathetic and this is the reason why workers must rise and demand a living wage,” he said.

According to the CCZ, Zimbabwe’s low income earner’s monthly basket for a family of six rose from ZWL14,438.23 (R739) in August to ZWL20,985.01 (R1077) at the end of September, a 45.34 percent increase of ZWL6,546.78, (R336). Price hikes in non-food items such as transport, rent, water, electricity, healthcare and education are to blame.

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“The spike increase in the total figure of the basket is attributed to the prices adjustments on the non-food items due to inflation, influence of the exchange rate and in exceptional cases the parallel market,” the CCZ said

It said the relaxation of lockdown measures had seen a marked increase in  the movement of consumers, the activities of the marketplace and a change in consumer behaviour patterns which emanated from the erosion of consumer buying power.

The CCZ encouraged consumers to be alive to the prevailing weekly foreign currency exchange rates to avoid being over-charged as the market was still to fully adjust to the display of prices in both U.S. and Zimbabwean dollars as provided for in Statutory Instrument 185 of 2020.

“The CCZ continues to encourage consumers to shop conscientiously and to always buy certified products. Where the products are not certified, consumers should exercise their right to information by carefully examining if the products they are purchasing are well labelled, packaged provided with information which includes manufacturing date, expiry date and ingredients used in the makeup of the product.”

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