THE SOCIAL IMPACT OF LOW WAGES Reflections by Father Kevin J. Barr

  • 28th June 2013
  • 2013
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The justice of a socio-economic system deserves in the final analysis to be evaluated by the way in which a person’s work is properly remunerated in the system.

As Fiji moves more and more from a subsistence to a cash economy, wages have become an increasingly important issue. Wages are the means whereby workers can support themselves and their families and improve their quality of life. Wages provide:

• access to goods (such as nutritious food, clothing, decent housing)

• access to services (such as education, and health care). These are the material components of our quality of life.

• provide workers with the means to care for their extended families, contribute to the vanua, the church or religious organisation, school;
find rest and recreation for themselves, and

• save for the future.

Thus it is important that wages are properly determined so that they meet the current needs of workers in accordance with the current cost of living as indicated by the Basic Needs Poverty Line (BNPL). In Fiji this is determined every six years by using data from the Housing, Income and Expenditure Survey carried out by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (and adjusted each year according to the recognised rates of inflation for the past year).

Wages are recognised as a key factor in the alleviation of poverty. The Fiji Poverty Report (1997:112) stressed that overcoming poverty was not just a matter of providing more employment, it was a matter of making sure that all those in fulltime employment received wages above the poverty line.