Solutions for our complex problems

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Dear Editor,

Re: The difference between wants and needs

Simple Maths often can’t work solutions for complex problems.

In a village household of say 10, if there are a couple of people earning $3 per hour and an alpha male with skills and experience earning double that, while the rest run the home and tend the plantations, there is an income of between $400 and $500 per week.

Though we may not have expenses like rent, rates and all the other costs associated with living in somewhere like Australia, there may be $20 per week on cashpower and water, leaving plenty to feed and clothe the family. The cost of a 30 minute bus journey in Australia is probably 5 or 6 times the cost of such a journey here, while petrol is about the same price as are cars. There are too many factors involved to simply use somewhere like Australia as an equivalent.

When you take into account the overseas remittances, there is plenty left to keep the Faifeau and his family in the lap of relative luxury. You may have noticed thevabundance of vehicles on the samoan roads over the last 10 years, they too have come into existence while there is such a low minimum wage.

The scenario for many in Apia is different, but as suggested elsewhere in this discussion, minimum wage is a legally mandated level of protection against exploitation by employers, not a guarantee of a minimum standard of living.

Without getting all unionised, I think there needs to be award wages for different types of work, based on skills and the benefits derived from such work. For instance, a cleaner at a fancy resort may earn a low wage based on the task and skills involved, however they are expected to dress in a different manner to a plantation labourer, they have been trained on correct procedures for such a role and the value they generate for the resort is quite high, so that role should have a higher award than the minimum wage.

Now if I or most businesses employing young or low skilled workers had to pay the $8 rather than the $3, plus expenses and a company motorcycle I currently pay, it would not be economically viable and my expectations of individual productivity would have to double or you will have created a couple more unemployed Samoans having to face an even higher cost of living due to the rampant inflation that will result from such a move.

To give the government some credit, they see that there is a need to raise the minimum, but not to the stupid heights of the suggested $8. Let the economists and lawmakers evolve Samoa’s employment fundamentals in a manner that is both fair to the worker, employers and the economy.

 

Kevin Hartin

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