Minimum wage could be raised in July: minister

RICH GETTING RICHER::The wealth gap is growing, with the average income of the top earners at 8.22 times that of those in the bottom pay bracket in 2009

By Shelley Huang  /  Staff Reporter

Fri, Mar 25, 2011 - Page 2

The minimum wage could be raised following a committee meeting in July, Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said yesterday.

Wang told the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee that as the economy continues to strengthen following the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, “employees’ share of the fruits of their labor” is too low.

As such, the council will actively seek to adjust the minimum wage “in a positive direction,” she said.

Data from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) showed that after inflation was factored in, real wages for workers in Taiwan had declined by more than NT$100 per month from the period prior to the global financial crisis, legislators said.

Wang said that despite non-mandatory efforts on the part of the council to encourage businesses to raise wages, employers had not given workers a fair share of the rising profits as demand picks up.

Nominal wages rose to NT$44,430 per month last year, which was close to wage levels prior to the financial crisis, she said.

However, that is “not enough,” especially amid rising consumer prices, Wang said, adding that this year was the right time to talk about raising the minimum wage.

“For many of our friends in the workforce, it is important that they receive a fair share of the economic gain,” they help produce, she said. “We hope [minimum wage adjustment] will head in a proactive, positive direction.”

The scale of the adjustment will depend on a number of economic indicators, such as the unemployment rate, GDP growth and consumer prices, she said. Economic data released at the end of this month will also be key to the committee’s decision-making process.

The council announced in September that the minimum wage adjustment committee had agreed to raise the minimum monthly wage from NT$17,280 to NT$17,880, effective on Jan. 1 this year. At the same time, the minimum hourly wage was raised by NT$3 to NT$98.

The move was widely criticized by labor groups, which said the small adjustments had no significant impact on workers and they accused the council of failing to protect the nation’s most-underprivileged workers.

Dissatisfaction with wages comes amid signs of a widening wealth gap. The DGBAS said in December that the wealth gap is growing, with the average income of the top earners standing at 8.22 times that of those in the bottom pay bracket in 2009. That contrasted sharply with statistics from 2001, when the factor was 5.5.

Ministry of Finance data showed that the average income of the top 20 percent of households was NT$2.3 million (US$71,875) in 2008, while the average income of the bottom 20 percent of households was NT$189,000.

Additional reporting by staff writer