Malaysiakini Letter

Let's be reasonable about minimum wage

Stephen Ng  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | It must be admitted that it is not easy to bring the country to good health once again after all the plundering that we see during BN's era.

For many decades, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has been banging on the table without much success to raise the minimum wages of the lower income.

While I am with them on helping those in the B40 group, there are however a number of considerations to look into.

Firstly, to raise the minimum wage from RM1,000 to RM1,500 is a big jump. This is bearing in mind that anyone including the road sweeper who is starting a job would be paid RM1,500. What does this mean?

It means that if I have been working for the company for five years, and my salary is only RM1,500, I would now demand RM2,500. Multiply that by every other employee in the company, this would be a huge jump in the company’s budget.

Secondly, it is not always that the worker employed is hardworking. By raising the minimum wage to RM1,500 as a government policy, it is killing their desire to work harder. These manual workers need counselling more than anything to help them to achieve new goals in life.

The reason why they are remaining at the B40 group is that they do not have the right infrastructure to help them develop their skills.

Thirdly, employment and salaries paid to the workers must take into consideration the employers’ ability to pay the remuneration. By making it a country’s policy, it will turn the employment market less competitive.

My bet is to leave it to the market forces to determine the salaries of the workers. If one is hardworking, it is not difficult to find jobs which pay higher. At one point in time, when there were no foreign workers, employers had to pay higher salaries to attract workers.

Fourthly, applying the new policy to pay the minimum wages for foreign workers is indeed a noble act. However, as pointed out by one lawmaker, this increases the costs of hiring foreign workers, bearing in mind that they also have to arrange for lodging and transport for them.

We all know that the country is in some sort of economic doldrums after the collapse of the 1MDB, so let us be more reasonable with our demands.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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