Prosperity not built on minimum wage

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

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Dear Editor,

There is a tumour in our economy and no one is seriously treating it with the urgency that is required to prevent a full-blown cancer from spreading across our nation.

The country's citizens are weary from political stump speeches. Many have resigned themselves to accepting the status quo or choose to run to greener pastures. Despite the talk of prosperity, everyone doesn't experience it equally. While unemployment has fallen, wages are not rising; the minimum wage remains at $155 an hour (US$1.19), while the federal minimum wage in the United States is US$7.25 (943) with some states mandating US$15 ($1,950).

What we are finding now is that there is a shortage in quality summer workers in Jamaica as many university students opt to work overseas during the summer to fund their education and take care of their material needs — justifiably so.Conversations on minimum wage should also include discussions on what young professionals are getting and the quality of jobs our people are getting. Prosperity cannot mean answering phones for $150-$300 an hour with a university degree. It cannot mean construction workers and domestic workers being paid less than $50,000 a month. We must challenge the narrative that the only form of economic development we can engage in through the outsourcing model is cheap exploitative labour. Instead we should focus on offering premium goods and services.

If we do not, more of our skilled and professional labour force will leave and we will have to start from scratch every year. And, while we are at it, let's give our health care workers the salary they truly deserve or else we risk destabilising our democracy.

Kevonne Martin

kevonnejmartin@hotmail.com

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