According to the deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, the government is "working frantically" to reach an agreement over a national minimum wage that will "make a meaningful difference in the lives of the lowest paid". It might make an even bigger difference in the lives of those priced out of the labour market, but of course Mr Ramaphosa did not mention this. Those favouring minimum wages seldom bother about the unintended consequences.
The impact of any national minimum on unemployment levels will depend on how high or low it is set. However, with unemployment in South Africa running at 8.2 million - a rate of around 35% - the introduction of even a low minimum wage is risky. Those to whom it poses the greatest risk are young African women, among whom unemployment is now running at 72%, while 64% of their male counterparts are unemployed. At current rates of economic growth, they face years of joblessness and poverty.
Dating back at least 15 years, opinion polls show that most people think unemployment is this country's most serious problem. This view cuts across age groups, provinces, and party- political affiliations. So far, however, it does not seem to have cost the African National Congress substantial support during elections.
South Africa's limited unemployment insurance system will not help the jobless very much. It covers only those who have lost their jobs, and then only for a limited time. A third of unemployed people have never worked, so they are not eligible for unemployment insurance payouts anyway. And two thirds of the unemployed have been unemployed for more than a year, which means they are unlikely to get jobs.
Some will be supported by other family members, including those with jobs but also including pensioners. Some will depend on the social grants paid to their own children. Millions will be dependent on subsistence farming and horticulture to feed themselves and their families. Some may turn to stock theft or other types of crime.
President Jacob Zuma announced in his state-of-the-nation address last month that agreement on the principle of a minimum wage had been reached by the "social partners" in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). However, this institution has always been structurally flawed by the fact that the unemployed have no voice in it.