While the global economic crisis has had an effect on wage growth in many other countries around the globe, Southern Africa is a unique prototype, especially when compared to other regions on the continent.
For instance, Malawi has the highest inflation in the common market for East and Southern Africa, and it also boasts of one of the lowest minimum wage standards on the continent. This essentially means it is a daily struggle for the average Malawian to finance basic needs, especially considering that any slight change in fuel prices means a corresponding increase in the cost of goods and services.
Again the cost of living continues to escalate, and has been made worse by policy decisions such as changes to the VAT (Value Added Tax) Act which only serves to punish the poor even more. According to the Centre for Social Concern, an average worker needs not less than MWK 100,000 to meet their needs in a month, but there is a wide disparity between this requirement and the government recognised minimum wage which is currently at MWK 687.70 per day.
With this wage standard, government essentially says people working 30 days a month are entitled to a starting salary of MWK 20,640; which in reality is barely enough to meet the cost of basic necessities such as water and electricity. The poor weather conditions also lead to an increase in the prices of other important food items such as beans, tomatoes, onions and vegetables. As the Kwacha has continued to depreciate and lose value, any wage increments have not really been able to offset the gap.
It is high time the government started to implement policies that will translate into an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and in turn lead to an improvement in the working conditions of Malawians, and Africans as a whole