• Friday, June 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Empowering Nigeria’s workforce: The case for a sustainable living wage

Minimum wage: How not to leave pensioners behind

Nigeria’s working class deserves better. Stuck in a constant battle for a meagre minimum wage, millions of Nigerians struggle to afford basic necessities. Day in and day out, they face the harsh reality of choosing between food, shelter, healthcare, and education for their children. It’s time for a living wage, not minimum misery.

A living wage would provide stability, security, and hope for a better future. It would truly reflect the cost of living, empower families to live with dignity, and lift them out of the cycle of poverty. The current system is unsustainable and unjust, trapping hard-working individuals in a perpetual state of economic insecurity.

“It is high time the government took meaningful action to address this injustice, ensuring that the minimum wage is not just a token gesture but a robust tool for economic stability and social equity.”

Implementing a living wage would not only improve individual lives but also stimulate the economy through increased consumer spending, foster greater workplace productivity, and reduce the burden on social welfare programs. The government and employers must recognise that the backbone of the nation’s economy—its workers—deserves wages that offer more than just survival.

The current system is a disgrace. The government drags its feet on revisions, leaving the minimum wage stagnant for years while inflation erodes its value. Every day, the cost of living skyrockets, making it increasingly difficult for families to make ends meet. This isn’t just negligence; it feels like a deliberate strategy, squeezing the life out of working families who are already stretched thin.

Essential daily expenses like food, housing, healthcare, and education become luxuries that many cannot afford, trapping them in a vicious cycle of poverty and despair. It is a grim reality where hard work no longer guarantees a decent living. This system undermines the very fabric of society, eroding trust in governance and creating a disillusioned, disenfranchised populace.

It is high time the government took meaningful action to address this injustice, ensuring that the minimum wage is not just a token gesture but a robust tool for economic stability and social equity. Working families deserve more than empty promises; they deserve a wage that allows them to thrive, not just survive.

Read also: Minimum wage: Talks resume today as labour insists on May 31 deadline

Look around the world. Civilised nations understand the importance of a living wage. It is not just about survival; it’s about dignity. A living wage allows workers to afford necessities and participate in the economy, not merely exist on its fringes.

For instance, the UK offers a shining example. Their living wage, adjusted annually, ensures adults can maintain a decent standard of living.

But shamefully, Nigeria’s leaders prioritise self-enrichment over the well-being of their citizens. Excessive salaries and rampant corruption line the pockets of the elite while workers grapple with a “minimum wage.” That’s an insult.

The proposed “increases” are a joke; N48,000 or N54,000 are still minimum wages, not living wages. Even the unions’ demand of N615,000 seems a stretch, considering the lack of social safety nets.

However, the answer lies somewhere between N100,000 and N120,000 per month. This would offer a fighting chance, especially considering the limited coverage of the minimum wage in the informal sector.

Fear of inflation is often used as a weapon against a living wage. Yet, the UK’s experience proves otherwise. Regular adjustments, coupled with strong economic policies, can mitigate inflation concerns.

The Nigerian Constitution itself mandates a living wage. It is a fundamental right, not a bargaining chip. This government is not just failing its people; it is violating the very foundation of our nation.

The fight for a living wage is not just about economics; it’s about justice. It is about creating a society where hard work is rewarded, not punished. Nigerians deserve a chance to climb the economic ladder, not drown in a sea of poverty. By implementing a living wage, we can empower individuals and families, boost the local economy through increased consumer spending, and reduce the strain on social services.

This, in turn, fosters a more stable and prosperous society for everyone. Let’s raise our voices and demand a living wage for all Nigerians. Together, we can create a future where hard work leads to financial security and a brighter tomorrow.