Malawi Government has raised the statutory minimum wage by about 74 percent from K317 (about $0.80) to K551 (about $1.38) per day—about K15 000 (about $38) per month for a six-day working week—effective January 1 2014.
In a press statement yesterday signed by secretary for Labour James Kalilangwe, government says the new minimum wage applies to all sectors.
“Employees are hereby reminded that in terms of Section 55 of the Employment Act, it is an offence to pay an employee a wage that is below the prescribed statutory minimum wage. The ministry, therefore, wishes to appeal to all employers to comply accordingly,” said Kalilangwe.
But in June last year, Limbe shop owners and workers agreed to a K600 (about $1.50) per day from the K317 ($0.80) per day government minimum wage, K4 000 (about $10) housing allowance and K20 000 (about $50) bereavement allowance when an employee’s close relation dies.
In a telephone interview on Monday, Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) president Chauluka Muwake welcomed the new wage, but urged government to introduce sectoral minimum wages.
He argued that although some workers are receiving above the new minimum wage, they are still struggling to meet ends meet.
Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) executive director Beyani Munthali, responding in an e-mail, said they agreed to the new minimum wage which he noted also includes housing allowance.
He, however, said although the cost of living has increased, the cost of doing business in the country has also risen.
A comparison of the new minimum wage to the basic needs basket is still short of the poverty benchmark for a household of six living in cities.
According to the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) basic needs basket (BNB), in January 2014 the cost of living in Malawi’s four cities—Mzuzu, Blantyre, Lilongwe and Zomba—averaged K118 218 (about $296).
But in an interview on Monday Kalilangwe, said they are aware of the high cost of living, but argued that they also considered implications of the minimum wage on costs to businesses.
Kalilangwe, however, noted that to ensure compliance to the wage, the ministry through its district labour offices pays surprise visits to companies and will implement an awareness campaign on the wage to ensure that workers take it upon themselves where the wage is breached.
A recent salary survey by CfSC recently showed that domestic workers earned a minimum of K3 000 (about $7.50) and a maximum of K22 000 (about $55) per month, guards received between K7 000 (about $7.50) and K20 000 (about $50) per month while general workers carted home a pay-check between K5 000 (about $12.50) and K64 000 (about $160) per month.
The centre’s social conditions research officer Alex Nkosi recently said that those working in institutions that provide or have exploitable services, stealing and corruption are also used as a strategy for survival while women, both married and single, engage in transactional sex to survive.