Jamaicans need to be earning $11,400 per week to eat a nutritious meal once a week, says Robinson
The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has renewed its call for the national minimum wage to be replaced with a livable wage, given the current situation where the minimum wage is proving inadequate to feed those in the lowest income bracket.
Opposition Spokesman on Finance Julian Robinson renewed the call, as he made his contribution to the 2023-2024 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives this afternoon (March 9).
Robinson provided a deconstruction of the national minimum wage, showing that the current rate is proving inadequate for most, if not all, employed persons to adequately afford three nutritious meals per day.
AFFORDING AT LEAST ONE NUTRITIOUS MEAL PER DAY
In fact, Robinson declared that the minimum wage is so woefully inadequate that it is even proving difficult to afford one nutritious meal per day. He calculated, based on estimates from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), that it will cost $11,430 per week to ensure that a minimum wage earner can afford at least one nutritious meal per day.
The Opposition finance spokesman came with his basket of food, showing the price increases that have been taking place on basic food items and the ravages of inflation on poor minimum wage earners.
Robinson argued, based on the $11,430 that is needed to adequately provide one nutritious meal per day and with minimum wage now being $9,000, that “the reality is that Jamaicans are foregoing meals for a day because they just cannot afford it”.
With such a low minimum wage, the Opposition spokesman posited that the Government is merely “fueling poverty”.
He acknowledged Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke’s announcement that an increase to the minimum wage is coming, but noted that the minister did not state a quantum but rather indicated that this would be done by Labour and Social Security Minister Karl Samuda in the coming weeks.
“I hope the increase is one where people can live,” was the retort given by Robinson.
The finance spokesman said last year that, when he called for a move away from minimum wage to a livable wage, he had proposed a figure of $12,000 but would not do so again. Rather, he said he would want such a determination to be made based on price movement, annual inflation and the basket of goods.
The analysis, he said, must be done periodically to avoid the ravages of inflation and that he wanted to see a mechanism that objectively crafts a livable wage for Jamaicans.
Robinson indicated a concern, noting the Government increased the minimum wage from $7,000 to $9,000 last year, but charging that there are some Government departments and agencies that today are still paying their employees below the minimum wage.
‘YOU CAN’T OUTSOURCE POVERTY’
The Opposition spokesman promised to share with the Government the identity of the guilty state entities, reminding the Holness Administration that it needed to lead by example in this regard.
He told the Parliament that, when the offending entities were approached on the matter, the response was that they were awaiting a Cabinet decision to effect the increased rate.
“We have to deal with that issue. We have employees still working at minimum wage one year later. You can’t outsource poverty,” Robinson said in conclusion.