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Calls grow for national minimum wage…key to poverty elimination 

2019-10-18  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

Calls grow for national minimum wage…key to poverty elimination 

WINDHOEK – The Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Office for Zimbabwe and Namibia, Hopolang Phororo, has said national minimum wages can be the key to the reduction of poverty rates and income inequality among working families. 

Phororo made these remarks on Wednesday during the opening of the one-day National Minimum Wages Tripartite Discussion attented by officials from the ministry of labour, various labour unions’ representatives and labour experts in Windhoek.

“We urge tripartite partners to effectively engage in this dialogue and the ILO remains committed to support these efforts toward improving equality in the labour market and the economy at large,” Phororo told participants.

“Wages are among the most important conditions of work and a major subject of collective bargaining,” she added. 

She said the ILO is committed to promoting policies on wages and incomes that ensure a just share of the fruits of progress to all and a minimum living wage for all employed in need of such protection. 
“ILO has said it is encouraged by the government’s decision to revisit the minimum wages for ready-made garment workers through an agreement made by a special tripartite committee,” she said.

In order to do so, Phororo said the ILO has supported a feasibility study on the introduction of a National Minimum Wage in Namibia to provide evidence-based policy advice on minimum wages, public sector pay, wage bargaining and gender pay gaps. 

She said this is very well in line with the objectives of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP), the NDP5 and the SDGs that seek to leave no-one behind. 

“This is especially in the context of the changing world of work and a growing challenge of the informal economy wherein wages are largely very low and keep many people in poverty,” she said.

She said it is the ILO hope that tripartite partners engage in this process to ensure a truly tripartite position is established in the bid to strengthen the social contract that ensures that everyone benefit from the fruits of socio-economic progress.

“Many have sought to over emphasise the negative effects of national minimum wages on employment levels, but evidence from across has shown otherwise. Minimum wages can be effective in achieving one of its equity goals of ensuring that ‘‘fair’’ wages are paid to workers,” she stresses.

She added that there is also some evidence of spillover effects that lead to an increase in wages for those previously at just above the new minimum.

“Minimum wages narrow earnings differentials across demographic groups, particularly between the young and old and between men and marital women,” she said.

On his part, Labour Ministry Executive Director, Bro-Mathew Shinguadja said the workshop, the first of its kind aimed at establishing a national minimum wage foundation (wage floor) as opposed to the sectoral minimum wage is very important in the history of the country’s labour market landscape.

He said the Namibian Constitution, Article 95, “Principle of the State Policy” on “Promotion of the Welfare of the People” states that “The State shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of people by adopting, inter alia, policies aimed at the insurance that workers are paid a living wage adequate for the maintenance of a decent standard of living and the enjoyment of social and cultural opportunities.
He said the State is aware of the fact that minimum wage is not an easy topic hence it does not expect an ease discussion.  

“It is one of the topics that ignites emotions, generates very divergent views and sometimes evokes economic and social threats,” he said.

He said the establishment and realisation of the national minimum wage for Namibia will have good benefits not only to the individual workers and their families but to the whole economy as such.

2019-10-18  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

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