It is said that personal example is more important than preaching. Was it not Gandhi who urged, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Let personal example create the beginnings of change. It was Christian Nestell Bovee who said, “Example has more followers than reason. We unconsciously imitate what pleases us, and insensibly approximate to the characters we most admire. In this way, a generous habit of thought and action can have incalculable influence.”
A number of leaders of civil society organizations recently signed a letter calling for an increase in the minimum wage from $35,000 to $70,000. They also petitioned the government to move the income tax threshold from $50,000 to $80,000.
Many years ago, the Guyana Public Service Union had called for an increase in the minimum wage to $80,000. This recent call by the group of civil society leaders for a doubling of the minimum wage is not far from what was asked for then.
I am sure that these leaders have examined the ramifications of their proposals and would have considered the fact that once you raise wages at the bottom tier, it would mean that you have to raise those above it. You can of course increase the pay at the bottom far more than you do at the top but once the minimum wage increases it will automatically lead to an increase in wages at all levels and in the overall level of wages in the economy.
This has implications for labour costs in business and in the home. It is doubtful if businesses in Guyana had to start their lowest paid workers at $70,000 per month whether they would be able to avoid increasing prices. The increases in prices of goods and services would fuel inflation and undermine whatever increase in disposable income that the two measures proposed by the civil society leaders would achieve.
An increase in the minimum wage would also increase labour costs in the home. Many families would find it difficult to put domestic help in the home at a rate of $70,000 per month for a forty hour work week. But I am sure that those leaders who signed that petition considered this scenario.
I am also sure that the leaders who made the petition had the poor people at heart and would genuinely love to see the doubling of the minimum wage become a reality. They have already taken the courageous stand of signing their names to the letter asking for the doubling of the minimum wage, increasing the income tax threshold and reducing the VAT to 10%. They must be congratulated for their bold stand.
But they can take their cause a bit further by setting the example of showing that it is possible to increase the minimum wage to 70,000 per month.
Many of these leaders that signed that petition would have persons working for them as domestics or gardeners. Since they are calling for a doubling of the minimum age, it would set a good example if they can increase the wages of any employee of theirs who is earning below $70,000 per month. If there are any such employees they should increase their wages to $70,000 for a forty day work week.
Nothing inspires change more than personal example and it would be inspiring if these well intentioned individuals can indicate just what they are paying their lowest paid employees at the moment, and if this is below $70,000 per month they could increase that.
Let us start a movement in Guyana where private citizens and private sector employees voluntarily agree to raise the pay of their lowest paid employees to $70,000 per month. If every employer does this, the government will be forced to follow suit.
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