Don’t disadvantage the poor and middle class.
That was the Opposition’s appeal to Government yesterday on the eve of today’s 2017 budget delivery.
The minimum wage should be the same for all sectors of the economy but should fluctuate. That was one of the suggestions made at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Employers Consultative Association (ECA) on Setting a Real Minimum Wage at the Courtyard Marriott, Port-of-Spain. “There must be a benchmark for the minimum wage. I feel there is a responsibility on the part of government to set it because there are those who will always set it below and who will pay the least.”
Economist Dr Roger Hosein said the minimum wage sets a lower bound benchmark “when you look at the numbers.” “No more that 6.7 per cent of the population get that.” he said. “It is interesting to see what are the attributes of that 6.7 per cent of the population. Almost 94 per cent of the labour force work for more than the minimum wage, which means that it is basically ineffective.
“It acts as a lower bound criteria to allow people in the worst situation to have a minimum standard of living. The majority of the labour force work for way above that.” Hosein suggested that the minimum wage was nothing more than a political tool.
“Discussions on the minimum wage now would become topical as we go into elections, as the various political parties try to woo support from that segment of the population interested in hearing about fluctuations in the minimum wage. That could work to their benefit,” he said. He added that if there was a decision to increase the minimum wage, there would be a need to look at productivity.
“Talking about wage increases without understanding what is going on with productivity really doesn’t make much technical sense,” Hosein said. “Wage increases should always be benchmarked against productivity changes. You would need to look at the numbers properly. “You would need to compare the numbers before you make an appropriate judgement as to what increase in minimum wages the economy could handle.”