Nigeria - The Minimum Wage Question
by Samson Itoje
The minimum wage in Nigeria, as I write, is 7500 Naira per month. That is about $64 dollars per month.
What is 7500 Naira per month worth to a married man with four kids? Little or nothing.
Think about it.
Most people who earn a minimum wage live in the outskirts of the city because houses within the city are way way beyond their ability to pay.
In contrast, apartments in the outskirts of the city and in slum areas are a lot cheaper. So, these poor folks move to these low cost areas.
Unfortunately, that decision gives birth to a new challenge. Living at the city outskirts also means living far away from work. This inevitably leads to high cost of transportation for these low income workers.
They spend virtually all they earn on transportation to work and rent. There's nothing left to pay school fees and fuel or fix other family needs.
This kind of atmosphere breeds dishonesty. Workers are forced to seek out ways to make more money to make ends meet.
This gives birth to corruption in the public service. Thus the public service in Nigeria has been bastadized by prevalence of corruption.
Don't get me wrong.
There is no excuse for stealing from the government or for corruption. Corrupt officials should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for inhibiting our collective potential for growth and development and to deter others from making corruption a way of life.
Nevertheless, paying workers a 'living wage' improves their morale, strengthens their will to resist temptations to be corrupt, and leads to higher productivity.
A living wage, a fair wage . . . that is what workers deserve. "A worker is worthy of his wages", says the bible.
Care about employees and they will care about productivity and performance.
Already the prime Nigeria labour union, Nigeria Labour Congress, is calling for increase of minimum wage from 7500 to 30,000 Naira. This call will get stronger and stronger in the coming months.
Cost of living especially in Lagos Nigeria is on the increase day after day. Employee wages should match the increase in inflation otherwise we may be treading the path to country-wide crisis.