Minimum Wage Policy – Lee Lam Thye

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Source : The Star

AS we commemorate Workers Day today, the piece of news that would surely make our workforce jubilant was the declaration of the Minimum Wage Policy by the Prime Minister last night.

The highly anticipated minimum wage for the private sector had been eagerly awaited by numerous Malaysians, particularly those not paid decent wages.

As one who began my career in the trade union moment in the 60s, I can well appreciate how important it is to have a minimum wage policy for our country.

Studies carried out have indicated that the wage rates for the lower occupation groups are low. For example, the National Employment Return conducted by the Human Resource Ministry has found that about 34% of Malaysian workers earn less than RM700 per month. The national poverty line income is RM800.

A study by the World Bank reveals that wage growth in Malaysia only recorded 2.6% increase a year on average for the last 10 years. On the other hand, real labour productivity grew 6.7% a year for the same period.

The idea of a minimum wage for Malaysia is a natural progression considering the fact that it wants to be a high-income economy.

The Government’s endeavour to achieve a high-income nation status will be meaningless if the plight of the low-income earners is not addressed.

The introduction of a minimum wage policy will serve the objective of increasing the income of the working poor and help to bring about a better quality of life for the workers and their families as a whole.

I wish to congratulate the National Wage Consultative Council which played a major role in providing a platform for deliberation and determination of a fair wage, including that of minimum wage and its implementing mechanism. The minimum wage is a provision in the National Wages Consultative Council Act 2011.

A minimum wage is necessary to ensure the basic needs of workers and their families are met, as well as to provide social protection to our workers.

It will also help to encourage industry to move up the value chain by investing in higher technology and increasing labour productivity.

It is heartening to note that both workers and employers’ representatives have reached a consensus on minimum wage despite some reservations in the initial stage.

With the introduction of the minimum wage, the time has now come for Malaysian workers to be more productive and help contribute to the nation’s economy.

Meanwhile, the Government should take active steps to monitor the prices of goods and commodities as there is always a tendency for prices to rise unreasonably following any wage increase.

Kuala Lumpur.