THIS is with reference to the report ‘CEOs pledge fair, not minimum wages’ (May 5). The strong advocacy for a ‘fair living wage’ by the chief executive officer (CEO) of a leading corporate and consumer brand gladdened my heart. The fact that the person concerned also happens to be the sitting president of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) definitely adds to the weight of the utterance, and that actually gladdened my heart even more.
It was a breath of fresh air for the large underprivileged segment of our society that earns just enough to eat a couple of nans a day and does not have any means to attend to their children’s educational, medical or other basic needs.
The OICCI chief had also spoken about the matter previously when in a TV interview he had advocated a minimum wage of Rs56,000 for all segments of the workforce, whether in the corporate world or otherwise.
Unfortunately, this view of the president of OICCI is not shared by many employers, and, as per record, the Employers Federation of Pakistan, of which the OICCI itself — and, indeed, the corporate brand concerned — happen to be members, had gone to court against the decision by the Sindh government two years ago to raise the minimum wage to a mere Rs25,000.
This is by the way less than half the fair living wage being advocated now by some conscientious CEOs. The opposition to the fair living wage proposal is also strong, and is mainly by known tycoons who hardly pay any taxes. They continue to get richer due to a variety of tax exemptions and evasions that are woven into the tax mechanism in the country.
The move is also opposed by several CEOs whose remuneration, as per published financial reports of listed companies, is over Rs100 million per year.
The government should enforce the fair living wage, but at the same time it should take steps to increase produc-tivity across the national economy, including the agriculture sector.
As is common knowledge, the current level of productivity in Pakistan is the lowest in the region. A fair treatment both for the workers and the investors is the only way forward. Let us move in that direction to the benefit the under-privileged without being unfair to anyone.
Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2023