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Up the pay

Nasik Swami
Saturday, September 28, 2013

LOW-income earners who earn below $2 an hour stand to benefit if recommendations from a study on Fiji's minimum wage baseline is approved by the government.

The minimum wage baseline survey conducted by Commerce Commission chairman Dr Mahendra Reddy with the Labour Ministry has proposed the country's minimum wage rate to be $2.32 per hour.

Speaking at the stakeholder's consultation at Suva's Holiday Inn, Dr Reddy said the survey conducted on 10,284 workers last month revealed a large proportion in the country continued to earn below just wages.

He said the study found that 37 per cent of workers in the formal sector and 82 per cent in the informal sector were earning below the poverty level.

"I proposed that we should peg the national minimum wage for Fiji to $2.32 (an hour) now going forward and then raise it to $2.50 in a year's time, that is 66 per cent of the median wage.

"A large proportion of workers are not getting what is legislated in terms of the minimum wage rates. For example, in some sectors, up to 34 per cent of the workers are deprived of getting the true minimum wage as gazetted.

"The second thing we demonstrated today was that a large proportion of the workers are originating from households who are poverty-stricken."

He said if the mean income of Fiji's formal sector was about $4.76 an hour, then 68 per cent were earning below the mean.

Dr Reddy said the national benchmark was that the minimum wage should be 66 per cent of the median wage.

"So no one in the country should be paid below $2.32.

"In the informal sector, the median wage is $1.66 per hour and $1.68 in the agricultural sector, which is pretty low and way below the national poverty line income."

Dr Reddy highlighted that Fiji also had a major problem of enforcing the minimum wage.

He said if enforcement was done properly, certain sectors would have had an increase in their salaries.

Labour Ministry permanent secretary Taito Waqa said the survey was part of the government's commitment to protect marginalised workers in the country.

"Government is concerned with workers who don't have wage that is just," Mr Waqa said.

He said the outcome of the survey would be put forward to the Minister Jone Usamate who would then present it to Cabinet.





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