The Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) has said it will engage government on plans to introduce sectoral minimum wage which could help workers in the informal employment.
MCTU secretary general Denis Kalekeni said, while a sectoral wage could create disparity among the workers, setting minimum wage depending on the sectors’ profitability could help uplift living standards for a lot of workers.
“Cost of living has never matched with the current minimum wage, particularly those in the informal employment like labourers and domestic workers. While this could in a way increase income disparity for minimum wage earners, we feel that introducing sectoral wage now will help workers who are working in profitable sectors but are being denied more earnings because of the set minimum wage which carters across all sectors,” he said.
Kalekeni pointed out that for instance those working in construction could be earning more if they were to go by sectoral wages.
“While those working in households as domestic workers could mean having to financially capacitate their employers first so that they are as well able to pay handsomely to their workers,’ he said.
Centre for Social Concern (CFSC) argues that while the cost of living is heavily determined by the trend of food costs, many people’s average levels of income fall below even half of their requirements.
CFSC figures indicate that a comparison of January last year to April this year shows that the food cost has increased by 12 percent while that of non-food by 9 percent with the overall cost of living rising by 10 percent, from K174 519 in January 2018 to K194 048 in April 2019 while minimum wage has remained static at K25 000 per month.
Kalekeni said looking at the current state it could be difficult for minimum wage earners to afford basis necessities as their income always falls short.
CFSC economic governance expert Lucky Mfungwe said there is need for minimum wage to reflect the current cost of living as K25 000 is too far from the reality.
“Perhaps we might protect the underprivileged categories by setting categorical minimum wages for domestic workers, guards, artisans and labourers than the general minimum wages which many employers take advantage of,” he said.
He suggested that the minimum wage should be at least closer to the food poverty line [which is K106 000] because most of the employers are taking it as the maximum payment not minimum.
Then Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Katsaila said government is considering introducing sectoral minimum wage which he said ‘will depend on how much a sector makes.’