By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
IMMIGRATION Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday he is “lobbying within the government” for a “livable” increase in minimum wage.
In his address at the 2015 Bahamas Business Outlook Seminar at the Melia hotel, Mr Mitchell said people who are poor have a lower chance of getting a proper education – thus the need to fight poverty.
The annual minimum wage for public servants is $11,500 or $210 per week. However, the minimum wage for the private sector is $150 weekly/$4 per hour –$7,800 annually.
“I am now lobbying within the government to consider implementing across the public administration a livable wage for our employees. You have to ask yourself whether it is conscionable to pay a minimum wage of $210 a week when it appears to many no one can live off $210 per week in this country,” Mr Mitchell said.
“As a representative, I see the results of poverty, joblessness and hopelessness every week in my constituency office. The minimum qualification for the government service is five BJCs: an 8th grade exam which you take when you are 14 years old.
“Yet, people who are perfectly capable and intelligent went through school and could not get five BJCs, the minimum qualifying standard of the public service – an eighth grade education. Some could not take the exams because of lack of funds. One woman told me her mother had to make a decision between herself and her brother. The mother could only afford to pay for her brother and so she did not take the BJCs. Her mother did not know that if you cannot afford to pay, the government would have made it possible.
“There is a connection in my view between this missed education and the ability of the country to execute complex manoeuvres and the inability to grasp the concepts which a sophisticated public administration requires. A good basic education is supposed to be provided to you and then you should easily pass the BJC and BGSCE exams. That then equips you intellectually to deal with the complex concepts of managing your life and ultimately the national life.”
National statistics released last June revealed that 12.8 per cent of the population is living in poverty, a 3.5 per cent hike since the last recorded study in 2001.
The absolute poverty line – the minimum amount needed for a person to meet basic needs – is $4,247 annually. In 2001, the annual poverty line was $2,863.
Last June, Labour Minister Shane Gibson said the government would consider proposals for the “much needed” increase to the national minimum wage by the end of 2014. He said some employers have been trying to stall the process.