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Many factors linked to minimum wage rate

You cannot just pick an imaginary number when deciding a national minimum wage rate. SODELPA members of Parliament yesterday stood in Parliament and declared that they would bring up the
25 Apr 2017 11:00
Many factors linked to minimum wage rate

You cannot just pick an imaginary number when deciding a national minimum wage rate.

SODELPA members of Parliament yesterday stood in Parliament and declared that they would bring up the minimum wage rate to $4 an hour if they became the new government.

Where SODELPA got the $4 figure from was not discussed in Parliament. The party may have got the idea from the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC). The FTUC has been advocating the figure.

It is, however, rather naïve to merely think of raising the minimum wage rate.

It is not as if there had not been any efforts previously to raise the minimum wage rate but there is much more to it.

Foremost, a large number of people are also employed as security guards,  kitchen hands, sales persons. They are employed by small and micro businesses in the country.

Will these business houses be able to afford $4 an hour? Will they decide to lay off some people? Will they end up retaining less staff? Will this give rise to unemployment? Yes it will.

The Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation had already made its views known about any such increase.

Let’s be realistic here. There is more to poverty than the minimum wage rate. If the minimum wage rate would fix our social problems in the country, it would have been wonderful. But, there are key contributing factors attached to it.

It is misleading to state that having a minimum wage rate of $4 will end poverty in the country. There has got to be a balancing act. Wage rate should be affordable and sustainable for small and micro businesses so they can continue to employ people.

There are many other ways to mitigate current minimum wage rate. This was well highlighted by Employment Minister Jone Usamate in Parliament yesterday.

Bus fare subsidy is one such manner in which those below the poverty line can get their children to school.

No school fees, the availability of Tertiary Education Loan Scheme, Toppers, free breakfast for Year One students, grants to start up small and micro businesses. These are a few things which are readily available for Fijians to make the most of.

These initiatives do not put a burden on the employers who do not have to fear about hiring less people. At least those who are employed today are getting 18 per cent of their pay saved for their retirement, ten per cent of which comes from the  employers.

Let’s be realistic in Parliament. Brandishing just another figure to impress people does nobody any good. 

JYOTI PRATIBHA

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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