The cabinet is reviewing the national wage rate for national workforce said the Minister of Labor and Human Resources, Ngeema Sangay Tshempo when quizzed by the Samtse NC Sangay Khandu on the need to increase the minimum wage, yesterday.
Lyonpo said that the focus is not on increasing the minimum wage for a year or two as it has various implications and includes non-national workers.
Minister said that, the cabinet has directed Ministry of Finance, Minister of Work and Human Settlement and Ministry of Labor and Human Resources to look into increasing the wage rate of the national force rather than national minimum wage rate as it would have more benefits.
The minister clarified that this was a better strategy as increasing the minimum wage would affect the people involved in compensation and penalty amount (thrimthue) in case of imprisonment and child support amount (sothue) in case of divorce. Lyonpo said that if the minimum wage is increased those from poor backgrounds would not be able to pay.
He added that wage for national workforce is for Bhutanese workers only and not subject to the expatriate workforce, but the national minimum wage rate applies to all workers.
At present, the national minimum wage rate is fixed at Nu. 125 per day. The revision came into force on February last year. Earlier, it was at Nu. 100 per day.
The ministry has currently divided the national workforce in five categories, where category one to four is skilled workers and those workers who fall in fifth category are unskilled.
The daily wage for the national workforce is Nu. 240 per day for category I, Nu. 220 for category II, Nu 195 for category III, Nu 180 for category IV and Nu 165 for category V respectively. The ministry will identify skilled workers, and issue a national skill certificate for them.
The ministry is planning to categorize the five into three categories in consultation with Royal Civil Service Commission. At present, there are 4,318 people in the national workforce in the country.
Samtse National Council (NC) member, Sangay Khandu, said citing socio-political issues, “The government has fixed the national minimum wage at Nu. 125 a day. This is having multiple affects in different aspects of our society and economy,”
He also said the as per the ministry’s guidelines, the ministry have to review it yearly depending on the price inflation, living standard and poverty level.
“People are not willing to work at that wage owing to higher labor value,” Samtse NC said, especially for community-based works thereby, hindering in progress of developmental activities. The Minister in response said that the contractors could only afford as per the country’s economy.
The NC said that when local government officials require people such as Mitsi Tshogpa (census) and others to come to Gewog for public related works, they find it difficult to get them since the daily subsistence allowance is paid equivalent to the minimum wage which does not cover basic expenses. Minister said that such tshogpas should be paid because it brings good governance.
Samtse NC also said that when courts summon people as witnesses to cases, they are paid the minimum wage irrespective of the place and distance travelled, so, people refuse or are compelled to spend their own money.
In addition, he said that due to minimum wage, expatriate workers engulf the worksites in Bhutan since Bhutanese are less willingness to work.