Over the years in Ghana, one of the primary concerns or complains in the labour sector be it private or individual, is the issue of either low or unequal salary and poor structural conditions of service, by their employees. For more than a decade, effort has been made by past and present governments to address this issue of salary differences to ensure that the working and paying condition is improved to help make life a little easier for the low income earners.
However, in 2006, the government of Ghana decided to adopt the Single Spine Salary System (SSSS) as the most appropriate pay policy to promote equality and fairness in salary administration in the public sector, because a research by the World Bank and UN Economics and Human Development statistics showed that more than 80 percent of the population of Ghana live on less than $2 per day which is about seven cedes per day. Therefore, in this regard, President John Mahama led administration, in January, 2015, increased the minimum wage of public sector workers by 13 percent which is tax exempt and national minimum wage by 16.7 percent. The Minister for Employment and Labour Relations in Ghana, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, during the increment last year, was quoted as saying, “As a ministry, our determination remains in the fact that improved and better economic fortunes will be better shared by both government and labour.” Encomium Weekly, however, took to the streets to ask workers in both the public and private sector if they agree with the government that the increment of the minimum wage is enough for a family to survive or there is need for a review to make life more comfortable for the average Ghanaian.
The minimum wage in Ghana is relative, depending on the individual. Because for a poor man, who has no other source of income except what he earns on daily or monthly basis with that kind of amount, it’s just unheard of. I don’t think I can ever take that from anybody because it can’t even take care of my daily needs. So, you can imagine what the poor go through in this country. And to think that some employees even pay lesser than the proposed wage by the government is sad. So, the government needs to set up a committee that has to monitor the working sector to know if really employers are adhering to this policy even though it’s not enough to survive on due to the harsh economic situation of the country.
AKOSUA PENTENG (marketing manager)
The minimum wage right now is nothing to write home about. How can a man with a family live on that kind of amount, especially when government has also increased water and electricity tariffs and these are basic amenities you need to survive, The harmattan is gone so you just have to provide these for your family and school fees if he has children. The government, definitely needs to take a second look at the minimum wage to make life easier. Because if they expect a man with a wife and children and some extended family to live on that ridiculous amount, how will they survive? Except he joins the terrorist group or something (laughs). But on a serious note, the minimum wage is nothing to write home about. Personally, my salary is not even enough for me despite the fact that I work in a private sector. So, if the government needs to do something about the minimum wage, it is now because the economic situation is not even helping matters at all.
With the current increment on utility bills, it’s going to affect everything, even the common pure water sachet will definitely go up because so much goes into production and all. So, for somebody earning 210 cedis per month, transportation alone will take all the money at the end of the month. Right now, the government is in a fix. There is absolutely nothing they can do about it, because the things we were doing to generate revenue has crumbled due to corruption, and we don’t have any excess. We are also in the IMF and they have warned that we shouldn’t let our revenue grow up more than a certain level. There are conditions on every financial step the government takes and the way the economy is going, you have to operate within a certain parameter in terms of how the government can handle our debts. For the interest on the debts, they need a lot of money to service it. And the interest on loans is like the national wage bill every month that the government can use to pay its workers. So, they need a lot of money to survive and the only way they can do that is to tax their way through. And we are in this situation because a lot of the money that is being generated is spent on unproductive things that do not benefit the citizenry.
NAOMI OSEI (Teacher)
The minimum wage, in a developing country like Ghana is expected because the country can’t be compared to developed countries with larger population and means of revenue. Right now, things are hard, especially for those of us in the public sector and that is why bribery and corruption can’t totally be eradicated. The salary cannot sustain majority of the public workers. Imagine the way prizes of commodities and services shoot up higher everyday. As if that is not enough, the government announced increment of utility bills which the labour union is getting ready to protest and register our displeasure on that. So, we can only pray that things get better for us as a nation so that the government can look into the minimum wage and increase it also. Right now, I don’t know what to say anymore concerning the economic situation in Ghana.
PASCAL BAHIISE (Midwife)
I work in a government hospital in the northern region, I will say that the minimum wage is not encouraging at all. Although, that is not what I earn monthly, generally, that amount is the least an employer can pay his or her workers definitely, does not work for me. Transportation alone to work weekly is more than the minimum wage, except probably, your work place is just the next building after your house. So, it’s doesn’t work for me. And the government, as at now, has a lot of issues that need urgent attention. If they can also look into it this year just like they did last year due to the harsh economic condition in the country, then it won’t be a bad idea at all. Many children are on the streets now because their parents can’t afford to pay their school fees and provide the necessary things they need to survive.
We know that the minimum wage is impossible for us to live on in our present economic situation in Ghana. It’s not just possible, and the reality of it is that some families actually live on that or lesser because they just can’t afford to live a luxury or let’s say an average life. It’s just unfair because some employers of labour also offer small salary due to the fact that there is the issue of unemployment in the country and so, when you get a job, it’s hard to reject what you are offered as salary. You know that if you don’t take it, somebody else is on standby to take the job with all pleasure because it’s better than being jobless or staying at home doing nothing.
Looking at the economic situation, the minimum wage is small because in less than how many months, electricity, water and fuel have been increased more than twice and salaries have not been increased. Comparing the minimum wage with current economic situation makes it unrealistic. Therefore, majority of those that are affected are now doing more than one job or doing their own business by the side to cushion their salary. I think the government needs to do something about the salary issue if not, crime rate will definitely rise. Not everybody will have the opportunity of getting a job either in the private or public sector and might also not have the means to set up their own businesses, thereby engaging in criminal activities to survive. Though I’m not saying that is the best option for any individual who finds his or herself in such situation.
Minimum wage – 210 cedes
And N10,838 (at official exchange rate of N200 to $1)