The Labour Law Reform Coalition is appalled by International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali’s statement that an increase in the minimum wage would hurt small and medium enterprises as businesses have yet to recover from the Covid pandemic.
Azmin Ali’s unsympathetic statement has disappointed workers in Malaysia suffering from a wage freeze or cut during the pandemic and from a rise in food prices in the last few months. His pro-business attitude is clearly in contrast with the “keluarga Malaysia” (Malaysian family) concept propagated by the prime minister.
If the prime minister considers workers as part of keluarga Malaysia who are entitled to shared the prosperity from economic growth, he should remove the anti-worker minister from the cabinet and commit to the workers’ agenda.
Moreover, Azmin’s argument does not hold water. Standard Chartered’s 2022 market outlook has forecasted that Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth will increase from 3.5% in 2021 to 6.2%. The Malaysian economy is booming, and many businesses claim they cannot find workers to fill vacancies.
Given the federal government has missed the two-year deadline (ended on 1 February 2022) and Parliament has to be dissolved in 15 months, the government has no choice but to immediately announce a new minimum wage of RM1,500.
For small and medium businesses that performed poorly in 2020 and 2021, the government can consider giving a limited period of exemption or wage subsidies.
N Gopal Kishnam is chairman of the Labour Law Reform Coalition