Paltry minimum wage hike leaves workers stuck in low-middle income trap

2
108

The Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress is at a loss over the prime minister’s defence of an immoral minimum wage increase of RM50. As we are given to understand, some of his arguments are as set out below and challenged by us.

Our questions are these:

How does government debt servicing and government expenditure affect the minimum wage in the private sector?

The reality: No impact because the minimum wage is only for private sector employees. As it is, civil servants are already paid a starting wage of about RM1200, a cost of living allowance of RM300, housing allowance, etc.

Given the fact such allowances are not paid or rarely paid in the private sector, it becomes more urgent for the government to improve the private sector minimum wage in a realistic manner.

How much of private sector wages does the goverment pay?

Reply: None

Loss of competiveness with other countries?

So is the Pakatan Harapan government saying that the Malaysian working population should continue to wallow in the low/middle income trap? Are we to continue to struggle in the face of the ever-increasing cost of living just so that we can remain competitive? Are the workers of the nation suppose to remain entrapped in hardship to ensure employers remain competitive in their business?

The issue of being competitive is an age-old contention against empowerment of civil society organisations especially the trade union movement.

But the facts indicate otherwise. South Korea and Singapore, as we understand, kick-started a wage empowerment policy that has resulted in those nations breaking out of the low/middle income trap. And these nations still remain competitive even though they have moved out of the low/middle income twlight zone!

READ MORE:  How the British suppressed the labour movement in Malaya

When the other emerging economies embarked on a policy of breaking the low/middle wage trap, we did otherwise. The result: an influx of millions of migrant workers, documented or otherwise, which inevitably continued to suppress wages. It was a race to the bottom of the pit.

Until and unless there is a political will to transform the living conditions of our working population, through affirmative intervention, the workers of the nation will continue to stay put in the low and middle segment of society.

The PH government is beholden to live up to its pledge to raise the national minimum wage to RM1500 without any further excuses.

K Veeriah is secretary of the Penang divisio of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress.

Thanks for dropping by! Apart from the views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed, the opinions in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation of whatever amount you can afford to sustain Aliran. Please make payments to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.

And why not become an Aliran member or subscribe to our FREE newsletters.

2
Join the conversation

avatar
750
2 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
Soakkoon WongJoshua Lim Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Soakkoon Wong

It reminds me of what a portentous capitalist , Mr Birling, in JP Priestley’s play, “An Inspector Calls” said., “keep costs low and profits high”,

Joshua Lim

Profit-sharing in the form of year-end bonus is the realistic solution.