STAKEHOLDERS in pharma, textile, oil and cement industries are unanimous in their view that the current minimum wage of Rs12,000 is insufficient.

Talking about why the benefits of growth had failed to trickle down, Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) Chairman Saeed Allawala said the competence of the skilled workers needs to be acknowledged. “I think for a family of four, which is minimum family size, at least Rs20,000 should be the monthly salary,” he said.

People with better purchasing power will naturally spend more which benefits the business and the industry at large, he said, arguing against the practice of retaining more and re-investing less. “Besides, all economies that have grown had to be patient in the first 20-30 years of the process. This results in limited circulation of money and affects the trickle-down effect,” he concluded.

Pakistan Apparel Forum (PAF) Chairman Muhammad Javed Bilwani said that for the skilled workforce, wages basically depend on demand and supply, and “of course we gauge the production output etc”. In case of good skills, production incentives, overtime and bonuses are paid, he said. For unskilled workers, the wages are fixed by the government, and almost all industries pay those minimum wages plus other incentives and overtime.

He said an unhappy worker is no good for business. The daily commute and loadshedding together frustrate the workforce and “we cannot expect 100 per cent performance from them.” Besides, he added, roadside snatching is a big feel-low factor.

“Our government should be thankful to private charitable organisations for providing free food and health services to the needy,” he added.

Najam Mahmud, General Manager of Human Resources at Pakistan Refinery Limited (PRL), said “We look at market compensation to determine a competitive wage level for our staff. We use formal surveys to determine salary growth levels as well as projections that factor in things like inflation. As cost of living is increasing in Pakistan, the present minimum wage of Rs12,000 is not adequate and this should be at least Rs15,000 per month.”

He stressed that if the standard of living improved, it would have a positive impact not just on “our business but that of others too in every sector”. He believed that any country with a growing middle class offered viable and sustained growth to existing as well as new companies.

A senior executive in a leading cement company said that for skilled and professional staff a salary survey is conducted through professional HR consulting firms and salaries are matched with different range bands. “The minimum wage should not be less than Rs20,000 per month,” he said.

The cement sector, he said, had shown tremendous growth, but this growth could not be translated into more investments due to “poor law and order situation and lack of government incentives”.

Published in Dawn March 22nd , 2015


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