A case for a higher minimum wage

Dear Editor,

Trade unions request that minimum wage be increased to $300 because the last increase, which was in 2015 and presently stands at $210, is inadequate.

The new school year starts in a couple of weeks and thousands of students will be elevated to higher grades, resulting in a change of curricula.

New teachers, new friends, higher performance demands, peer pressure, new textbooks, etc.

Furthermore, hundreds of toddlers will be embarking on their journey into a new world, a world that will envelop them for many years.

With countless parents working for minimum wage, thousands of children in transition will be entering new classes ill-equipped with the required scholastic materials. So already their performance is impaired.

Hence lower GPA for students, especially those in government schools.

While a good education is paramount on parents’ minds, with the cost of living in The Bahamas, parents, especially single parents, are finding it difficult to provide even the bare necessities for their families. Many of them are living below or barely above the poverty line.

Unfortunately, many kids will start their first day back to school with very little or no lunch money. Not trying to be an alarmist; just keeping it real.

With higher utility bills and added VAT rates, $210 per week for a single parent can hardly pay the rent much less buy food and clothes – forget about school books.

The cost of living here is higher than in most countries throughout the world, higher than all of the Caribbean.

It is also the wealthiest in the West Indies and third in the Americas behind the United States and Canada.

Taking into consideration the aforementioned, let us take a look at the level of poverty in the country.

The following is an excerpt from a column entitled “Five things to know about poverty in The Bahamas”, written by Julia Morrison in August 2017.

“As of 2017, 14.8 percent of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. Not only is this higher than the average global poverty rate, but the number of people living in poverty continues to increase.

“Currently, it has grown by two percent since 2014.”

On Wednesday, June 11, 2014, Ava Turnquest, a Tribune reporter, wrote, “Children under 14 have the highest poverty rate in The Bahamas as national statistics released yesterday reveal more than 40,000 persons in the country live under the poverty line on less than $5,000 per year.”

Findings show that 12.8 percent of the population is living in poverty with a 3.5 percent hike in the annual poverty line since the last recorded study in 2001, from $2,863 to $4,247.

Fast forward to today with unions lobbying for an increase in the basic wage, already the noise is the small merchants will not be able to pay the proposed hike.

One of the union leaders pointed out that The Bahamas is fast approaching a country of have and have nots.

As long as our country is at the level of poverty it’s at, as long as children will have to go to school without the basic educational tools, as long as they go to school on an empty stomach, they will not achieve the maturity required to excel.

Unfortunately, the majority of senseless violence and crime occurs in the inner-cities where education is a challenge.

Thankfully, a few civic-minded corporate citizens and churches are responding to the clarion call to help alleviate the burden of the less fortunate, and parents everywhere are very grateful for their kindness.

Prayerfully more like-minded persons will get on board.

– Anthony Pratt

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