LABOUR unionists are calling for stringent enforcement mechanisms to ensure that employers comply with the recently approved minimum wage. The experts fear that, in the absence of clear terms on compliance, some employers may decide to pay wages below the new standard.
Government, after consulting its social partners; Employers Consultative Association of Malawi and the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions, has raised the statutory minimum wage from K787.70 to K962 per day.
Minister of Labour and Manpower Development, Henry Mussa, has since signed a minimum wage order which came into effect at the beginning of this month.
This means good news to the most vulnerable working populations as devaluation of the kwacha meant were living most Malawians below the World Bank poverty line.
But Secretary General of the Communication Workers Union, Hamilton Deleza, says enforcement challenges still need to be addressed to ensure that the new wage standard benefits workers.
Deleza also said going forward, there is need to implement the minimum wage according to economic sectors rather than the current one-size fits all.
“The current arrangement of one minimum wage for all makes it hard to have visible impact on lives of the beneficiaries,” he said.
There have been concerns that the least paid working population, including domestic workers and guards, are still bearing the brunt of the harsh economic environment as their salaries are still not enough to finance basic needs.
As it stands, low income earners working 30 days of the month will earn at least K28,860 but, as of January this year, the national average basic needs basket was at K183,411, according to the Centre for Social Concern.
The Basic Needs Basket for some districts such as Mangochi, Blantyre and Lilongwe continues to be on the higher side at K193,729, K205,579 and K195,012, respectively.
While employers, through their umbrella body, the Employers Consultative Association of Malawi, have since express commitment to comply with the new wage standard, other stakeholders still feel that the adjustment is not enough to offset high costs of living.
Although developments in the economy are pointing to a rebound, prices of goods and services in Malawi remain high.
An investigation which The Daily Times conducted recently found that, although inflation has been decelerating in recent months, prices of goods and services have either stagnated or gone up.
Economic experts have said Malawi is experiencing a deflation where prices of goods are increasing, however at a slower rate than before.