Minimum wage’s benefits are plenty

Article extracted from Making a Point by Jagdev Singh Sidhu, StarBiz.

I have been waiting for a reason to talk about a pizza delivery man I met in a lobby of an condominium while waiting for a lift to arrive. It was in the evening and he was delivering pizza to one of the residents. I struck a conversation about his job, his salary and his aspirations, and got enough from the chat to get his views that the decent salary he was making was insufficient.

The young man claimed he was making RM2,200 a month whizzing through traffic, despite the weather, to send piping-hot pizzas to customers from between 10am and midnight.

He said that after sending back money to his parents in Pahang and paying for his lodging and expenses to live in Kuala Lumpur, the salary was just not enough. Furthermore, the job was wearing him down and he wants to do something else, but is finding it hard to get a new skill with the demands of his current job and the obligations he has.

His story will resonate with many others who are struggling to make ends meet, and whatever little assistance they get will surely be welcome. That small bit of help though came for millions of Malaysians by way of a new minimum wage the Government announced on April 30.

Minimum wage: Paving the way to greater savings Minimum wage: Paving the way to greater savings

Workers in Peninsular Malaysia were promised a floor wage of RM900 a month and those in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan RM800 a month. The minimum wage will take effect six months from the time the law is gazetted to allow industries to make adjustments to comply with the new law. Non-professional services companies with fewer than five employees will be given a further six months to make their adjustments.

The higher minimum wage will benefit a reported over three million private-sector employees and the net effect economists have calculated is a negligible increase in unemployment and a small drop in investments.

Economic growth and the investments that will take place and the promise of new jobs will be more than enough to offset those small impediments.

One drawback many can expect is higher prices. You can bet employers will pass on the higher staff costs to customers, but the quantum should be kept in check given the competition that exists in business.

The benefits, though are plenty.

The higher wage that almost a third of the workforce will benefit from will be a boost to the economy, which in recent years has been driven by consumption.

The higher wages will also manifest in other benefits for workers. A higher base salary will mean higher contributions to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and the extra will go some way to shore up the retirement savings of many Malaysians.

Companies will see an increase in their payments to the EPF, but with productivity having risen 6.7% per year over the past 10 years and companies making a lot more money than before judging by profits announced by listed companies and tax collection by the Government, they can afford to pay a little more for their workers without diving into bankruptcy.

With a third of the workforce soon enjoying a higher base salary, the increased income will go some way to satisfy the requirement of banks under the new responsible lending guidelines.

Under the new loan criteria, banks will look at the basic salary and decide whether a person can afford a loan. With higher salaries, maybe that will be enough for low salaried people to qualify for a loan to get the small car or home they need.

The minimum wage will help those in need. It might help those like the pizza delivery man if the minimum salary together with allowances are fixed. It is a start that many Malaysians will be thankful for.

● Deputy news editor Jagdev Singh Sidhu needs to get a lucky charm ahead of this weekend's FA Cup final.