Thursday’s announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to raise the national minimum wage by 44% resulted in loud and prolonged desk thumps from government lawmakers as well as exclamations of “Radam!”—a Jamaican slang term for excitement.
According to Holness, who was speaking during the 2023–24 Budget Debate in Parliament, the national minimum wage would increase from $9,000 per 40-hour workday to $13,000 per 40–hour workweek beginning of June 1, 2023.
The rise, he continued, is the greatest in 20 years, stirring forth additional yells of appreciation on his side of the room.
To further cheers, he said, “Since taking office in 2016, the minimum wage has climbed from $6,200 to $13,000, so this Administration has increased the minimum wage by 11% in seven years.
He also stated that even when expressed in US dollars, the minimum wage increased by 66 percent during that time period, with the overall rate of inflation being less than 50 percent. “This Government has done more than any previous Government to create prosperity for Jamaica and Jamaicans, and we are proud to share the gains with all Jamaicans,” Holness bragged.
The success of manufacturers, hotel experts, attorneys, physicians, and teachers in achieving the nation’s productivity and service objectives, he claimed, depends on the participation of minimum wage earners like housewives, artisans, laborers, store clerks, and security employees. The Administration “is committed and prepared to take decisive action to set minimum wage earners on the right track towards a liveable wage.”
In addition, he said that beginning on June 1, 2023, the weekly minimum salary for industrial security guards will grow from $10,500 to $14,000.
The $1,000 difference between the national minimum pay and the minimum salary for security guards will be eliminated at the following raise, according to Holness.
The prime minister said the Administration was “deeply saddened” by the recent attacks on security guards and how “too many have lost their lives on the front line,” noting that the security sector underpins every other business in Jamaica.
“We have engaged employers in the security industry to improve the conditions of work for our security guards, ensuring that the necessary statutory payments are made so that they will qualify for housing and national insurance pension,” he noted
Additionally, Holness informed the legislature that the flat rate for the minimum weekly National Insurance Scheme (NIS) pension will increase by 74% beginning April 1, 2023, rising from $1,700 to $3,000.
“The pensioner who currently receives $2,550 per week will now receive $3,500 per week, a 37 percent increase, and those at the top will receive a 24 percent increase, moving from $3,000 to $4,200 per week,” he added.
Holness reminded the House that an actuarial analysis completed in 2013 had revealed that the NIS’s sustainability was in jeopardy if prompt action was not taken. “In fact, the projections at that time were that cash flow would be negative by 2025 and the scheme would be bankrupt or run out of money by 2033.”
According to him, the Government established a number of reform measures, the last of which was carried out in 2022. Given the performance of the National Insurance Fund, the Government will increase the old age, widow, widower, and invalidity pensions as well as all other benefits payable under the NIS starting on April 1, 2023.
The minister of labor and social security will make that announcement, he added.