DIRECT ACTION:If the government is serious about addressing youth poverty, raising the minimum wage would be the most effective method, a labor rights advocate said
By Abraham Gerber / Staff reporter
The minimum wage should be increased to more than NT$26,000 per month, labor activists said yesterday, amid doubts about industry representative threats to boycott a meeting of the Ministry of Labor’s minimum wage review committee scheduled for today.
“The minimum wage has to fulfill the basic function of allowing a worker and his family to maintain a basic standard of living,” Taiwan Labor Front (TLF) executive secretary Yang Shu-wei (楊書瑋) said at a news conference held at the group’s offices, adding that the wage should be the product of national individual living expenses multiplied by the national dependency ration.
Such a formula would yield a monthly minimum salary of NT$26,300, he said, calling for the passage of a minimum wage act to codify the formula and put an end to the current “haggling” between labor and industry representatives.
The current minimum monthly salary is NT$20,008.
“Raising the minimum wage lifts irregular incomes as well as regular incomes, so it drives increases in overall earnings. If President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is serious about addressing youth poverty, raising the minimum wage is the most direct and effective method,” said Hung Ching-shu (洪敬舒), director of the TLF’s Research Center for the Working Poor.
He added that wage increases do not necessary lead to an increase in unemployment, citing unemployment figures for recent years, which he said have stayed largely stable despite small increases.
Taiwan Labor Front secretary-general Son Yu-liam (孫友聯) said wage increases could also help the economy by raising consumption.
Several Social Democratic Party (SDP) members held a simultaneous protest outside the Ministry of Labor advocating similar increases, shouting that workers should be allowed to review and pass new minimum wage increases themselves, even if vested interests choose to boycott today’s review committee meeting, which they had threatened to do.
Major industry associations have said they would boycott the meeting to protest the government’s failure to remove national holidays as part of its implementation of the five-day workweek, despite some representatives meeting with Vice Premier Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀) yesterday.
“He only came to listen our views, but we made them clear long before and there is really no need to keep repeating ourselves,” Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce (CNAIC) chairman Lin Por-fong (林伯豐) said, adding that leaders of seven major trade associations would “in principle” not participate in today’s meeting.
Industry leaders previously boycotted the committee’s July meeting, leading to a decision on raising the minimum wage to be postponed until today.
Deputy Minister of Labor Liau Huei-fang (廖蕙芳) said at the time that a decision would be made at today’s meeting regardless of whether business leaders attended.
Lin Por-fong yesterday said that business leaders could accept a minimum wage increase of up to 3 percent, adding that a hike to more than NT$26,000 would merely lead to massive unemployment for marginal workers, who would stand to lose their jobs to college graduates with higher earning capabilities.
“The government will be left in a tight place if does not make any adjustments, but an overly large hike would not be good for the economy,” he said.