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Minimum Stressmas

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image Paulo Coutinho

Comes the Season, and with more or less spirituality, or none, everyone seems to be touched by it: the spirit of Christmas and its “to give” message.
Yet for families this is also a time of burden and stress.
Let’s say “Stressmas” is for all, but not equally so. Medium-to-high-income families stress over – more or less – abundance and plenty and the angst of choosing the right gift. Low-income families struggle to give their loved ones, children especially, just what they “want for Christmas”, if even only “my two front teeth.”
So, what better gift could prosperous and rich Macau SAR offer its citizens but a dignified salary?
For starters a dignified minimum wage. There are plenty of examples, even in very liberal economies, that show this is a good measure in the long run and that if left to “the market” it can go wrong. Very wrong.
That is why in America, Obama is pushing to raise the minimum wage from USD7.25 per hour to 9 dollars.
Star-economist Paul Krugman supports the initiative for two main reasons:
“For about four decades, increases in the minimum wage have consistently fallen behind inflation, so that in real terms the minimum wage is substantially lower than it was in the 1960s. Meanwhile, worker productivity has doubled. Isn’t it time for a raise?”
We have seen similar co-related wage-inflation in Macau over the past two decades - if not deeper, in a shorter period of time. And here we are still discussing the implementation of… a minimum wage. A period of consultation on the matter just finished in November.
The New Macau Association’s theory about this is that the minimum salary should be 50-60 percent of the average salary, and for all.
“Now [the average salary] is about MOP12,000. We think that the minimum wage should be 50 to 60 percent of the average salary. This means that the minimum wage would be MOP6,000 if at the 50 percent level. The average salary is measured quarterly. If the figure rises to MOP15,000, this will immediately transfer to an increase in the minimum wage to MOP7,500 (per month),” said Rocky Chan Lok Kei recently to the press.
It’s a clever move because in the end Chan is saying the same thing as the established businessmen: leave it to “the market”.
Interestingly enough, in Germany, mighty Germany, there is no minimum wage because the law states that paying a worker an “immoral wage” is illegal.
And how would you measure that?
Well, in Germany that is up to the courts to decide. And federal judges had ruled that any wage lower than 75 percent of the average salary constitutes illegal payment.
Macau’s GDP per capita is over USD78,000 a year, almost double that of Germany’s and more than that of Hong Kong, which recently introduced an hourly minimum wage of HKD30.
Personally, I would rather go Swiss. In the near future the Swiss people are to vote in a referendum that advocates a universal monthly income (equivalent to MOP20,000) payable to everybody, or at least, every adult citizen. As the Financial Times put it recently, “Everyone gets it, no strings attached.”
“The idea is endorsed not only by experts on inequality such as Oxford’s Sir Tony Atkinson, but by the late Milton Friedman, an unlikely communist. The idea of a basic income is one that unites many left- and right-wingers while commanding very little support in the mainstream,” emphasized FT’s columnist.
Actually, the whole direct-democracy model of the Alpine state should be thoroughly studied by local government officials who are so eager to go through a public consultation every now and again. So why not go full-blown?

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Responsible Right of Expression — In the interest of freedom of expression, coupled with a true sense of responsibility to encourage community dialogue, the Macau Daily Times offers its readers the opportunity to express their opinions on new-related matters through this website. All opinions are welcome. However, we reserve the right to remove comments that are deemed to be obscene, or are merely insults written under the cloak of anonymity. MDT