Fri, Aug 14, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Shih Ming-te calls for hike in minimum wage

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

The monthly minimum wage should be hiked by 37 percent, veteran political activist and independent presidential candidate Shih Ming-te (施明德) said, accusing the pan-green and pan-blue political camps of being “corporation-huggers.”

“One of the biggest differences between politics in [Taiwan] and the rest of the developed world is that we remain trapped in a debate over independence and unification,” Shih said.

“The issue of Taiwan’s future has been manipulated by politicians to cover up and sideline the issue of income inequality,” he said.

Shih called for the minimum monthly wage to be increased to NT$27,199 as a “Robin Hood policy” to address distributive injustice, while accusing the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and People First Party of being “rightist” parties that favor corporate interests.

He said sources had told him that DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would advocate for a lower increase to the minimum wage on grounds that low-income workers purchase relatively cheap products.

The current NT$20,008 figure went into effect last month. The Ministry of Labor’s minimum wage review committee on Wednesday delayed consideration of any further increase for six months given soft economic growth figures.

National Taiwan University economics professor Kenneth Lin (林向愷) — who calculated Shih’s NT$27,199 figure — said the ministry’s decision ignored workers’ rights while perpetuating income inequality.

He said that worker dignity and “basic life quality” could only be guaranteed if the minimum wage was raised, with the NT$27,199 figure representing a “living wage” calculated by multiplying the national poverty line by the national dependency ratio.

“Even though labor make a contribution to production, their share [of production proceeds] has fallen progressively to the point that it is below the level 30 years ago,” he said, citing figures showing that wages as a percentage of GDP have fallen substantially since 1991.

Disposable income for the poorest quintile of households has fallen since 2000, even though there has been an average 2.8 percent annual economic growth rate, he said.

While raising the minimum wage would cut into corporate profits, the effect would be offset by the adoption in recent years of policies beneficial to corporations, he said, citing cuts to corporate income taxes as well as new direct and indirect subsidies, such as preferential loans.

He added that the increase would also boost the economy by raising domestic consumption.

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