Livable wage legislation could be coming soon

Labour Minister Keith Bell said he hopes a livable wage will be rolled out in The Bahamas by summer.

“I can’t preempt Cabinet, as you can appreciate, but we are moving very quickly to do away with that and put in place a livable wage,” Bell said when asked for an update on the administration’s promise to increase the minimum wage.

“We have started already. I was hoping to bring it when Parliament met in January. I was hoping to bring the legislation but the attorney general’s office still has it under review.”

Bell said he hopes to bring legislation to Parliament by the end of February. 

He pointed to the recently elected Progressive Liberal Party’s campaign promise to not only raise the minimum wage from $210 to $250 but to also introduce a living wage. 

“I guess it’s more trendy in keeping with modern times,” Bell said.

“But also, too, we would have signed on with the International Labour Organization…so, what we are hoping to do is to ensure that we remain the pacesetters in the Caribbean to ensure that we provide better benefits for our entire labor force and that’s where we are headed.”

When asked if the government will likely roll out an increased minimum wage by summer, Bell replied, “I would like to hope so. Again, as you would appreciate, it has financial implications, etc.”

He said that expectation also applies to the living wage, which has not yet been identified by government.

Bell said the matter has not gone before Cabinet yet.

“I don’t want to preempt what Cabinet will debate and determine,” he said when asked if a living wage has been identified.

Two years ago, a study conducted by the Government and Public Policy Institute of the University of The Bahamas concluded that a living wage for New Providence was $2,625 per month.

It also stated that a livable wage for Grand Bahama was $3,550 per month.

“Our gross living wage estimate for New Providence is 26 percent lower than the Grand Bahama living wage estimate, nearly 200 percent higher than the national minimum wage, 127 percent higher than 2013 poverty line and nearly 75 percent higher than the minimum wage hike proposed by a local union,” the report noted.

“Our living wage estimate for Grand Bahama is nearly 300 percent higher than the living wage, 200 percent higher than the 2013 poverty line and 140 percent higher than the minimum wage hike proposed by a local union.”

The cost of living has been a public concern for some time in The Bahamas, with residents frequently expressing frustration over increased expenses and stagnant salaries.

The high cost of living has been exacerbated by The Bahamas’ fragile economic situation, triggered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a months-long shutdown of the country’s tourism industry in 2020, and Hurricane Dorian, which severely damaged Abaco and Grand Bahama – the second and third-largest economies in The Bahamas – in September 2019.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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