Taiwan approves modest rise for minimum wage
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-08-28 03:46 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A Council of Labor Affairs committee decided Wednesday the basic minimum wage will rise by NT$226 (US$7.53) a month next July, going against expectations of a freeze.

The committee with the authority to decide on changes raised the minimum monthly wage to NT$19,273 (US$642) from the present NT$19,047 (US$635), though workers will have to wait until July 1, 2014 for the measure to take effect.

The minimum hourly wages will rise to NT$115 (US$3.83) from NT$109 (US$3.63) next January 1, reports said.

While approved by a committee meeting at the CLA, the ultimate decision lies with the Executive Yuan. Last year, the government surprised the CLA and the public by vetoing a committee recommendation for a rise.

Labor groups had demanded an increase of the monthly minimum salary to NT$22,639 (US$755) and the hourly wage to NT$133 (US$4.43).

Labor activists and lawmakers called on the government to show their concern for low-income families and push for a significant increase to make up for inflation in general.

CLA officials reportedly hinted at the result of the meeting by referring both to low economic growth for the year and to the fact that the previous minimum wage hike was introduced just last April.

If no rise was forthcoming, then it might mean that workers would have to wait until 2015 to see their income rise, which would be unfair to low-wage employees, activists said.

At a news conference Wednesday, opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Cheng Li-chiun said she wanted to remind the public that an initial advice by the CLA to raise the minimum wage last year was torpedoed by then-Premier Sean Chen, who introduced new preconditions for a rise. His rejection resulted in the resignation of the CLA minister.

Chen’s new rules had turned the evaluation of minimum wage levels into a political decision, Cheng said, while labor group leaders said the government’s attitude showed that it didn’t respect the committee and that taking part in its meetings was therefore useless.

Some activists threatened to follow government leaders around the country to protest if there was no rise in the minimum wage.

Business leaders on the other hand said the predictions for an economic growth rate barely higher than 2 percent this year and the government’s decision to hike electricity prices, announced Tuesday, would already significantly harm industry. If minimum wages for an estimated 1.7 million workers also rose, the consequences would be hard to bear for business, industrialists said.

President Ma Ying-jeou acknowledged in an interview with cable station TVBS Tuesday that wages for young people were too low, but he added that the cost of living was also comparably low.

It was a fact that wages were too low, but restoring them to higher levels would take time, the president said, touting his campaign for free trade zones and pacts.

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