How do people residing in Klang Valley even survive with a minimum salary of RM1,200?
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Penang Division has call out to the government to review the minimum wage structure, as well as to take into consideration the spike in living costs and slowing economic growth due to Covid-19.
In a statement, the group’s secretary K. Veeriah cited a study conducted by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) in 2018, saying that the minimum wage policy is out of touch with current living expenses.
He said the study from BNM showed that a single worker living in the Klang Valley needs to earn a minimum of RM2,700 per month, which is grossly above the country’s minimum wage ceiling of RM1,200.
“There is a disparity with the figures reflecting what an average worker needs to survive. I think this has worsened as the pandemic derailed the economy.” he said in a statement on Friday (26 November).
Veeriah then echoed the Sunway University business professor Yeah Kim Leng, who expressed his opinion that based on the current minimum wage of RM1,200, a worker needs to seek supplementary incomes.
“That is our reality!” said Veeriah.
He also said the prices of basic nutritional food items such as vegetables, fish, chicken, eggs, and even bread increase manifold, the plights of the marginalised segments of society become a cause for concern.
“Increasing costs of ikan kembung, sayur sawi, eggs, and bread translate to an erosion of the disposable income of the working population – a 20% increase in prices of essential nutritional food means 20% less of income to meet other financial commitments.:
“The poor become poorer. There have been views expressed that there ought to be greater intervention by the government to introduce a price control mechanism, not only during festive seasons, but as an ongoing process.” he said.
Nonetheless, economists would argue against government’s intervention in the market and it is best to let market forces to determine the impact of supply and demand on food prices.
However, Veeriah said is certain that it is a misplaced argument as the most vulnerable segments of the country’s working population remain enslaved under the low and middle-income wage trap.
“It is therefore obvious that the government firstly has the choice of continuing to enforce price controls and providing subsidies, or secondly, migrating from a minimum wage system to a living wage module by using the BNM study as a benchmark on the matter.” he said.
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