Government to set new minimum wage this year

The Government is considering fixing a minimum wage before the end of the year, the Minister for Public Service and Labour, Anastase Murekezi has said.
Murekezi during the Interview  with The New Times last week.
Murekezi during the Interview with The New Times last week.

The Government is considering fixing a minimum wage before the end of the year, the Minister for Public Service and Labour, Anastase Murekezi has said.

The 1974 Labour Law that set the minimum wage at Rwf100 per day is still in force, making it possible for some workers to earn as low as Rwf300 per day, according to trade unions.

But in an interview with The New Times last week, Minister Murekezi disclosed that the minimum wage will be hinged on productivity of particular sectors, looking at how much they produce per year and how much the least paid worker should be entitled to.

 He explained that the delay in fixing the minimum wage was due to a global crisis that forced many economies disregard minimum wages.

Murekezi said government did not want to set a new minimum wage during the global economic crisis because it would not be realistic.

During the crisis, he said, workers were fragile while employers and investors kept the labour market out of the space for negotiation.

“I can guarantee you that a new minimum wage will be set before the end of this year. It will be set by major activities and sectors of the economy,” said the minister.

He explained that it will not be a general minimum wage because productivity in sectors varies.

“Productivity in the agriculture sector, for example, is different from productivity in the banking sector. So we shall set minimum wages for different sectors, looking at how much they produce per year and then establishing how much the least paid worker should be entitled to,” Murekezi said.

He said there are no specific figures under consideration but negotiations are ongoing with different partners, including the private sector federation, trade unions and the civil society.

“What is left now is Cabinet approval. We are preparing to send a document to the Cabinet and to the Prime Minister in the next few weeks,” the minister said.

Eric Manzi, the Secretary General of the biggest confederation of trade unions in Rwanda known by its French acronym CESTRAR, said last week that he was hopeful the country would soon get a new minimum wage to replace the current one that is  outdated.

The minister also said the government is working closely with its partners to provide jobs to the citizens.

Government recently announced plans to spend Rwf12 billion to implement a new National Employment Programme (NEP) in the next fiscal year that will start in July.

The NEP will focus on skilling for mostly the unemployed and under-employed youth, entrepreneurship and business development in the country, Labour Market Interventions programmes such as paid high intensive public works to employ the abject poor in communities, as well as a better coordination and monitoring and evaluation of national employment interventions.

Every year Rwanda churns out 125,000 new entrants in the job  market, against 104,000 jobs created annually.

Government’s target is to create 200,000 new off-farm jobs per year in order to serve the large number of job seekers.

Statistics show that 3.4 per cent of the population are jobless. Unemployment rate is high in the cities, at 7.7 per cent, while, in general 4.1 per cent of youth in Rwanda are unemployed. 

On maternity leave, Murekezi said government is working on modalities to see mothers get full salary for the 12 weeks of their leave. Currently, a mother on maternity leave gets her full salary for only the first six weeks.

But if she stays home after six weeks, she is entitled to only 20 per cent for the next six weeks.

“We are still working on a maternity fund to compensate employers and top up the 20 per cent for the second half of the 12 weeks. Before the end of this year, we shall have good news for our sisters.”

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