High percentage of wage-earning Caribbean jobs emphasize importance of minimum wage hikes
BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS — More workers in Latin America and the Caribbean are working wage-earning jobs than have been since before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
It noted these findings in its latest Economic Survey of Latin America, adding that much of the growth in employment experienced in the region over the last year has been for wage-earning jobs.
“Wage-earning jobs and domestic service are the categories in which employment has increased by most,” the ECLAC said in its report.
“The share of wage earners and domestic workers in the total number of persons employed in the region increased in the first quarter of 2023.
“The share of wage earners (62.2 percent) is at its highest level in the last five years, while domestic workers accounted for 3.6 percent.
“Wage earners and self-employed workers are the only categories in which pre-pandemic levels of employment have been surpassed.”
Wage-earning jobs in the Caribbean are vulnerable
Wage-earning jobs include those that are paid hourly, as opposed to salaried jobs where employees earn one fixed rate irrespective of the number of hours worked.
Wage workers can take home paycheques that vary from week to week, depending on whether they work fewer hours or take on more overtime hours, and similar factors.
This can make wage workers more vulnerable to external shocks than salaried workers are.
Another challenge is that wage workers often earn minimum wage, or not much higher than that amount.
This means they can be among the lowest-earning workers in a given country.
Considerations for minimum wage jobs
In recent times, many Caribbean countries have moved to either:
- Increase the national minimum wage
- Increase the minimum wage for specific categories of workers
- Implement a national minimum wage for the first time
- Discuss implementing a national minimum wage
Most governing bodies have said this is in an effort to help citizens stay afloat while countries recover from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and while consumers around the world are facing unusually high rates of inflation.
With more Caribbean people working in wage-earning jobs than ever, the need for countries to implement minimum wages that can afford citizens and residents a decent living is critical.
Some leaders have acknowledged that a minimum wage is not necessarily a livable wage in every circumstance.
This again highlights the importance of policies that can economically uplift the lowest earners in the country if the region is to address and stave off wide-scale poverty.
Caribbean workers also have resources like Caribbean Employment Services Inc. that exist solely to help them find high-quality jobs that will enable them to live comfortably and provide for their families.