Ministry begins living cost survey to set minimum wage

A cost-of-living survey that will help determine a national minimum wage got under way on January 26 in Yangon and Bago regions. Investigators will use questionnaires to examine the living conditions of business owners, public servants, workers earning a bare living and unemployed people.

Daw Tin Tin Ye, an official with the labour department of Shwe Pyi Thar township, Yangon Region, said the survey would focus on how much families spend each week on food, as well as other living costs.

“Generally, a family unit will spend between K8000 and K10,000 on food for a week,” she said.

In Yangon Region, the two-month survey is being conducted initially in three villages – Zee Gone, Thar Du Kan and Hlawkar – and three wards – 6, 9 and 16 – in Shwe Pyi Thar township.

It will eventually cover 108 townships throughout the country, including Nay Pyi Taw Council. The work will be carried out by representatives of the labour department, employers, local administrative staff and volunteers, and their reports will be sent to the Ministry of Labour, which is considering what level to set the minimum wage in each.

Survey teams collected data on 34 households in Bago Region’s Yedashe township on January 26, said team member U Ko Ko Naing.

“On average a family will spend K300,000 to K400,000 a month. In some cases, their expenditure exceeds their monthly income,” he said, adding that after Yedashe they would conduct the survey in Swar and Thargara.

While the Myanmar Trade Union Federation and the Federation of Trade Unions Myanmar have been invited to take part, the government has refused requests to allow other labour groups to join the survey as volunteers.

“The ministry did not invite other groups to collaborate despite our request,” MTUF leader U Aung Lin said.

U Tun Tun Naing, a member of the Cooperative Committee for Trade Unions (CCTU), said his group was one of those frozen out of the survey.

But U Aye Myint of the Ministry of Labour said the government had tried to cooperate with representatives of both labour and employers in creating job opportunities, resolving labour problems and improving conditions for labour. “We are collaborating with them. The minimum wage will be fixed by the survey result,” he said after the January 20 meeting.

Director general U Myo Aung said the minimum wage would not be fixed this year. “It’s not clear that the representatives of labour and the employers will recognise the results. If not, it won’t be possible to [set the minimum wage],” he said.

U Soe Lwin, owner of Diamond noodle factory, who is serving as an employers’ representative in the survey team, said it was too early to discuss the results of the survey, as families surveyed so far had been mostly middle class and had higher living expenses than working-class families.

More time would be needed to achieve a comprehensive result, he said. “It’s too early to say what the minimum wage will be because we need to cover all kinds of family units and their living standards,” he said.

He added that the wage should be about K4000 or K5000 per eight-hour day, or about K150,000 a month.


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