Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Devon Dick | Try living on $9,700 a week

Published:Thursday | July 26, 2018 | 12:00 AM

As of next week, the minimum wage for security guards will be increased to $9,700 per week. Furthermore, the 'national' minimum wage will increase to $7,000. Are these liveable and reasonable wages for a single father with two children? If your answer is 'yes', then try living on it and tell the nation how it is done!

Too often in this country, the persons who enact laws, institute curfews and establish salaries do not have to abide by those decisions. Furthermore, they are unaware that the dysfunctionality in the society are connected to these unsustainable wage rates.

It is unconscionable that it took two years for minimum wage rates to be increased, meaning that the minimum wage earner would be worse off for 2017-18 compared to 2016 in terms of purchasing power. A minimum wage based on ability to pay, qualifications, performance and expected standard of living should be indexed at least to the moving cost of living. Furthermore, it is worse when the minimum wage is calculated in US$. Ruddy Spencer, former trade unionist, opened my eyes to this way of calculation when he was an opposition member of parliament. Do the 'math' for minimum wage earners in US$ over the years and notice the decline in value. Another point to consider is that the minimum wage is just about US$60 a week! In fact, the minimum wage is institutionalising poverty FOR GENERATIONS, facilitating dependence on politicians, private sector and civil society persons, and spurring people to immoral and illegal activities. A basic funeral costs $90,000 and still the working poor needs help. When more than half the student population is on the PATH programme, then something is wrong with the economic system and model. It is a pyramid system, with the vast majority at the bottom bearing the weight of the few at the top.

 

NOT ENOUGH TO TAKE CARE

 

These wages are contrary to upholding the inherent dignity of all. There is a minimum required to maintain one's dignity and keep body and soul together. If every human being is made in the image of God, can this rate be justified? Who would pay their mothers, who they love, this minimum wage? Who would pay this rate to their best friend from school days? Try going to a restaurant that has a reasonably priced menu (take your wife, but leave the two children at home) and get a tab for under $9,500 for the appetiser, entrÈe, drink and dessert. Perchance your partner gets sick and has to have surgery in a public hospital, where there is free healthcare, it could easily consume half of the yearly salary.

The argument here and abroad is that the wages will put companies out of business. Where is the data that shows that minimum wage earners have ever caused businesses to close?

Chances are, minimum wage earners cause companies to make super profits.

Minimum wage earners giving their widows' mite help keep churches afloat. These are the same persons who live in one room with three persons and still accommodate another relative and child who are desperate. Can we imagine what the church and Jamaica would be like with a better wage offer?

Is it fair to cap wages when there is no cap on prices? Absolutely not.

Francis of Assisi, Roman Catholic saint, in his youth lived a life of luxury and worldly pleasures, then he was converted and went in disguise and lived the life of the beggar on the street of Rome. Subsequently, he established religious orders to empower people. We need others to follow him in principle and then we will have a different attitude towards the minimum wage and life.

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