Sunday , October 1 2023

“Higher minimum wage contributes to poverty prevention”

The recent increase of the minimum wage on Saba contributes to preventing abuse of employees and poverty, stated Dutch State Secretary of Social Affairs Jetta Klijnsma on Wednesday. The Daily Herald writes that the State Secretary stated this in response to written questions posed by Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Cora van Nieuwenhuizen- Wijbenga of the liberal democratic VVD party. The Member of Parliament (MP) had posed questions late December following Klijnsma’s decision to increase the minimum wage on Saba to US $4.96 per hour. Saba’s Executive Council had asked for a higher hourly tariff, while employers had indicated that US $5.50 was the lower limit.
According to Klijnsma, the decision to increase the minimum wage was taken in “good consultation” with Saba’s Executive Council and representatives of the local employers. “The levels were raised on the empathic request of these parties. Employers on Saba indicate that in fact they already pay the higher rate and even more than that,” she stated. Klijnsma explained that she had not been willing to wait on the complete results of the investigation by the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) to increase the minimum hourly wage. Waiting for the CBS would not have been in line with the agreements that were made with the public entities to further improve the minimum wage and the social allowances according to the economic carrying capacity and development.
Asked why she had not left the decision-taking in the wage area up to the employers and employees she responded that as State Secretary she has the responsibility to determine the minimum wage. “There is no other way to intervene in the employment relationships,” she stated. Klijnsma rejected the suggestion of MP Van Nieuwenhuizen- Wijbenga that the minimum wage increase was a case of implementing “unnecessary” rules and regulations because employers in practice already paid a higher wage than the legal minimum hourly wage. “There is no question of unnecessary legislation and regulation in this situation. The legal minimum wage on Saba contributes to preventing abuse and poverty. The amounts are adapted on a yearly basis based on the development of the consumer index price. In this situation the setting of a higher amount aims to better correspond to the reality on this island,” Klijnsma stated.
Responding to the MP’s question about the effects of a higher minimum wage and social allowance for people from surrounding islands, the State Secretary explained that the discussion on the attraction of higher social allowances and the related risk of drawing people from outside was mostly theoretic. There is a waiting period of five years for social welfare (“onderstand”) while the claim on the old age pension AOV was determined on the number of years that a person has resided in the Caribbean Netherlands in the past, she clarified. Van Nieuwenhuizen-Wijbenga was irked by the fact that the Second Chamber had not been involved in the decision making to increase the minimum wage and subsequently the “onderstand” and AOV. Klijnsma responded that setting the amounts based on the Minimum Wage Law BES was a ministerial authority that required no permission from Parliament. Besides, she noted, the Second Chamber was informed beforehand during a general debate about poverty on November 27, 2013.

State Secretary for Social Affairs and Labor Ms. Jetta Klijnsma
State Secretary for Social Affairs and Labor Ms. Jetta Klijnsma
“I Love My Body” Opening session
Dutch parliamentarians concerned about high prices on islands