Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - Page 4 News List

No increase in minimum wage: labor council chief

DISSATISFACTION Workers' groups panned the decision, asking how they could stimulate consumption if they didn't have cash to spend

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The nation's minimum wage will not be raised this year as the government wants to stabilize the employment market, Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) Chairwoman Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said yesterday.

A special committee composed of academics and representatives from the government, labor and the private sector decided at a CLA meeting not to increase the minimum wage, fearing it would lead to layoffs and discourage companies from hiring more workers, Wang said at a press conference.

MARGINAL WORKERS

Specifically, marginal workers, including part-time workers, apprentices and non-professionals, could be affected by a rise in the minimum wage, Wang said.

“If the minimum wage is increased rashly now, it might cause a negative impact on marginal workers' employment opportunities,” she said, adding that “now is not a good time” to raise basic wages.

She added that the economy was lagging behind government predictions and many enterprises and factories had shut down.

CLA data showed that 79,747 enterprises or factories were shuttered between January and September this year, an increase of 45.8 percent from the same period last year.

In addition, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics announced earlier this week that the unemployment rate rose to a five-year high of 4.37 percent last month.

Wang said that under the current environment, the council would strive to guarantee people's right to work.

She added that the committee would convene again to decide whether to increase the minimum wage next year, depending on future economic developments.

NOT ENOUGH

The decision angered several nongovernmental organizations that support workers' rights.

They argued that the monthly minimum wage of NT$17,280 (US$519) per month is not enough to cover the daily expenditure of workers and their family and demanded that the government raise the minimum wage to at least NT$23,870, an increase of 38 percent.

“The government wants to stimulate consumption, but how can workers spend if they have no money?” said Mike Jen (任睦杉), president of the National Trade Union Confederation and a labor representative on the committee.

The nation's basic wage was raised last year from NT$15,840 to NT$17,280 per month, an increase of 9 percent. Prior to that increase, the basic wage had not been adjusted for 10 years.

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