Workers should be aware that all the talk about a high-income country doesn’t imply high wages for them, says Rani Rasiah.
The flimsiest of excuses is now being given by the government for not implementing a minimum wage. The government conducted a survey through its blog and according to the Ministry of Human Resources, there were very few respondents, and so they have dropped the idea!
How removed the government is from the people. How many working class families own computers? And even for those who do, how many have the time, outside their 12-hour workday schedules, to surf the net? Wouldn’t it have been more credible if the government had said that it didn’t want to upset employers let alone cross swords with them?
This episode just further confirms that the government has no intention of raising the income level of the worker whose wage level is now solely determined by the individual employer. In fact retaining such a bad wage scheme is in line with the government’s policy of liberalising the economy. Low wages and the absence of laws to ensure a fixed minimum wage for workers is a pull factor for foreign investors.
Workers should be aware that all the talk about a high-income country doesn’t imply high wages for them. High income reflected in a higher GDP will not lead to higher incomes for workers even though it is possible if the government so wishes.
According to the 9th Malaysia Plan, the GDP of Malaysia was RM729 billion. If that figure was divided by the 27 million population, the household income of a family (assuming an average family size of five people) could be RM11,250 a month.
However, the unequal distribution of the country’s wealth makes us a notoriously unequal country, with about 60 per cent of families earning less than RM3,000 per month.
As we have seen, this is so not because we are a low-income country but because of the way the ruling class wishes to distribute the wealth. A more equitable wage policy which can help redistribute wealth is out of keeping with the present overall plan. This is why the government, which glibly talks about being representative of all Malaysians, is always cooking up excuses to deny workers a decent minimum wage.
Rani Rasiah, an Aliran member, is a coordinator with the Oppressed People’s Network (Jerit).
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