Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Low Wage And Impact On Workers

Low Wage And Impact On Workers

Except for a minister, the general public does not seem to subscribe to the argument that a family of 4 can survive on RM980.00 a month and yet be categorised as living out of poverty in Malaysia!

On this score let us stand clear of Bank Negara Malaysia's own input that workers of the country ought to be paid a living wage as opposed to the inadequate minimum wage of RM1100.00 a month. According to Bank Negara an individual, living in Kuala Lumpur, ought to be paid RM2700.00 a month to sustain himself. The said report also estimates that for a family of 4 the living wage ought to be about RM6500.00.

However, the reality is, that, the vast majority of workers are wallowing in the low and middle income trap as a consequence of  inequitable wages that does not commensurate with the existing cost of living indices. The polemics, as to why and what has been the undercurrent to such a situation, may well strecth from the issue of promoting Malaysia as a low wage nation to the suppression of decent wage growth on account of an influx of migrant workers and much more.

That, in  a nut-shell, is a manifestation of the weak economic position of the workers of the nation.

Consequentially, their contributions, to the Emplyees Provident Fund (EPF) the only source of a private sector workers' retirement plan, has been so much compromised that they do not have enough savings to sustain themselves after retirement at age 60.

The fact remains that more than 50% of EPF contributors do not have enough savings to sustain themselves after their retirement. Thus, one need not be a rocket scientist to conclude that the bottom 40, and to a large extend the middle 40, of the economically deprived segment of the country will be faced with 2 options upon retirement - one depend on social security, which is almost non-existence in our country, or continue to seek employment albeit at low paying jobs at the dictum of uncaring employers! Sadly, in the second option retired citizens would continue to meet the nation's manpower needs but at subsistence income levels!

Thus, what are the alternatives that can, at the least, mitigate the situation?

It is my view that the following proactive initiatives ought to considered by the government:-

1. that a living wage, as so recommended by Bank Negara, be adpoted as the basis of wage fixation so that workers are paid a decent living wage that would reflect the actual cost of living factors;

2. that employers' contribution, to the  EPF,  be set at a much more appropriate rate so that private sector workers savings would be sufficient to meet their post retirement living expenses;

3. that, having regards to the higher life expectantcy of Malaysians, the retirement age be revised to 65 years at the least so as to keep them in gainful employment; and

4. that, a comprehensive social security net, giving priority to health care protection for treatment of chronic health conditions such as kidney ailments, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheiner, stroke etc, be formulated as the fact remains that our country is heading towards an ageing soceity.

It is no-gain saying that the working citizenry of the nation are the most margainlised segment of the population. That, sadly, is despite the indisputable reality that the nation's growth, economically or otherwise, was on the back of the blood, sweat and lives lost of the working class!

Thus, it is my contention that the government is under an obligation to commence restitutional reforms to address the plight of the workers - from wage reforms to a holistic reform to the obnoxious labour laws that has impeded the development of a vibrant workers' movement etc, etc. Such reforms, so implicitly assured by the Pakatan Harapan government, ought to be realised without procrastination as the issues, confronting the working population, are real and not an illusion!

Opinion Piece By:-

MTUC Penang Division
016 4184520

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