Taipei, Aug. 15 (CNA) Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Friday a committee will soon convene to discuss a possible increase to the minimum wage and indicated the government may remove a policy that wage increases must be preceded by a 3 percent annual increase in consumer prices. Receiving representatives of major labor groups, Jiang said the committee would submit its suggestions to the Ministry of Labor. The minimum hourly wage is NT$115 (US$3.84) as of Jan. 1, while the minimum monthly wage is NT$19,273 as of July 1. Jiang said that when the minimum wage is raised, the average salary usually rises accordingly. Such a change would be welcomed by Taiwan's workers, who have seen average real wages remain largely stagnant over the past 15 years despite rising costs. In May, average regular monthly wages stood at NT$38,106. The premier said a screening committee passed a resolution last year to convene again only after the consumer price index grows 3 percent year-on-year. But Jiang said the "the problem does not seem to solve there." The premier noted Taiwan is a comparatively stable country in terms of consumer price control, adding that over the past years, the annual CPI increase has seldom exceeded 3 percent, averaging instead of between 1.8 percent and 2.5 percent in recent years.
"For the increase to accumulate to 3 percent, it could mean an adjustment (would not come until) 2015 or 2016, which makes us uneasy," the premier said. He also spoke of "uneasiness" because the CPI covers a wide range of items, including homes and cars, and does not reflect the impact on everyday laborers. He cited the example of food prices, saying that the annual increase reached 3.8 percent for the first seven months of this year and 4.27 percent in July, a sharp growth he said is felt especially acutely by the working class.
He pledged that the Cabinet would look into the impact of food prices and not limit discussions of wages to specific growth of the CPI index.
He added: "I will respect the (wage screening) committee's decision." (By Tang Pei-chun and Lilian Wu)