News / Africa

Uganda Debates Minimum Wage

Oloka Mesilamu, who represents Ugandan construction workers, is fighting for a minimum wage, June 13, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
Oloka Mesilamu, who represents Ugandan construction workers, is fighting for a minimum wage, June 13, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
Upon arriving in Geneva, Uganda’s delegates to this year’s International Labor Organization conference found themselves under attack.

Despite decades of debate, Ugandan legislators have yet to establish a minimum wage, a fact that labor activists are criticizing.

With the ILO demanding that Kampala officials establish one by next year, the government's labor minister responded with assurance that a minumum wage would be in place by 2015.

But within Uganda the move is controversial, with many saying the focus should be on attracting investment and creating jobs.

According to Oloka Mesilamu, who represents the construction industry in Uganda’s National Organization of Trade Unions, a minimum wage is crucial to prevent rampant exploitation.

“What is happening is that in the absence of minimum wage, these workers who are not skilled are exploited more because, given the unemployment rate in this country, employers pay anything," he said. "These workers, because they are desperate, they take anything they are offered."

A minimum wage, he says, would make Ugandan workers more productive.

“These things have a direct bearing on the performance, the productivity," Mesilamu said. "When workers are poorly paid, they don’t perform. So it is important for the economy as well.” 

A lengthy debate

The Ugandan government has long been reluctant to fix a minimum wage. The country’s labor minister recently agreed to consider a proposed wage for unskilled workers is 75,000 shillings, or around $30 a month, but only after studying the matter carefully.

Pius Bigirimana, of the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, warns that acting too hastily could be bad for everyone.

“You don’t just rush into a minimum wage without studying, to look at employment trends, to look at the cost of living and the wage trends by profession, by geographical regions," he said. "So fixing a minimum wage without regard to all these factors may destabilize our macroeconomic framework and affect employment trends.”

Sarah Ssewanyana of the Kampala-based Economic Policy Research Center says most proponents of the minimum wage do not truly understand the Ugandan economy, where most jobs are informal and do not pay regular wages.

Enacting a minimum wage could cut into formal employment even further, she says, or force employers to find other ways to recoup their costs.

“Some of the benefits can be withdrawn, or this guy is going to reduce on the number of people that he is employing and make sure that he overworks this person whom you have already dictated that he has to get the 75,000,” said Ssewanyana.

While countries like Kenya and Nigeria do have minimum wages, their private sectors are also better developed than Uganda’s, Ssewanyana adds, explaining that Uganda needs to focus on increased employment, even if it is badly paid.

“Our economy, it has been growing, but not creating that kind of employment that one would have loved to see," Ssewanyana said. "Why can’t we just focus first on transforming our economy so that the economy can create jobs, and then maybe later on you can start the discussion of the minimum wage.”

Uganda’s labor minister has promised to enact a minimum wage by July 2015. In the meantime, says Mesilamu, the labor unions are pushing hard to ensure that such promises are kept.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: joshua from: Soroti-Uganda
June 22, 2014 12:13 PM
Its true really ,Uganda citizens are realy under paid and the cost of living is too high. So uganda goverment should think 1st of her people than the Investors

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs