‘Nec wages hardly reach PDL’

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BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA

THE United States government says national employment councils (Necs) mandated minimum wages hardly exceed the poverty datum line (PDL), amid high inflationary pressure from the depreciating local currency.

In its recently released 2021 Human Rights Report, the US embassy to Zimbabwe noted that Nec set minimum wages “seldom” exceeded PDL, despite an increase in the cost of living.

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, the total consumption poverty line for one person was $9 708 last month, up from February’s $9 144. Comparatively, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe reported a cost of living of $12 500 for one person at the end of January.

Using Zimbabwe’s family average of six, these figures translate to a monthly cost of living of $58 248 and $75 000 regarding the official and unofficial statistics, respectively.

“Parliament mandated Necs to set the minimum wage for all industrial sectors through agreements between employers and labour unions. The minimum wage, when paid, seldom exceeded the poverty line due to the speed of inflation,” part of the report read.

“Employers paid many agricultural and domestic workers less than minimum wage. Many public servants earned salaries that put them below the poverty line due to rampant inflation and currency depreciation. The minimum wage was equivalent to US$25 per month at the official rate and US$14 per month at the parallel market rate, according to the ZCTU (Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions) as of October.”

Research from the United States Agency for International Development food security arm, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, found that the recent increases in fuel prices had contributed to the high cost of living.

Further, the Ukraine/Russia conflict has caused international food prices to rise leading to increases in the prices of local maize grain, maize meal, wheat flour and bread prices of at least 15%.

This also increased the cost of living and negatively impacting mainly low-income households.

As a result, basic commodity price increases are driving official and parallel market exchange rates currently at $1:150, and 1:330, respectively.

“The Public Service and Labour ministry is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage and work hours laws for each sector. The government did not effectively enforce these laws, particularly in the farming and domestic service sectors,” the report added.

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