Controversy Around an “Ethical” Minimum Wage in Chile
SANTIAGO — The protests on “El Día del Trabajador” in Chile raised a discussion about the necessity of increasing the national minimum wage. The amount is currently set at around US$375 per month. The Central Workers Union (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, CUT) demands that the minimum wage be increased to US$515.
According to the president of CUT, Arturo Martínez, the raise is necessary because the cost of life increased a lot in Chile in the last years.
“The first necessity products – like rice, oil and flour, all the things people who earn minimum wage buys, and wastes a high percentage of their salary on food – have increased considerably. The cost of living has increased around 33 percent in Chile and I think it is fair that the workers have a better salary,” declared Martínez in an interview to Chilean TV station CNN Chile.
The president of CUT said that Chile needs an “ethical salary”, and not a minimum salary, in reference to a minimum wage that allows people to live with dignity.
The government criticized the position of the workers organization and said that to raise the minimum wage to US$515 is impossible for the economy. According to the Minister of Work, Evelyn Matthei, this could result in an increase in unemployment rates.
“If we increase the minimum wage in Chile in percentages much higher than the other countries in the region – Paraguay, Peru and Ecuador – we run the risk that companies will send non-qualified work to these neighbor countries. What we need to figure out is how to make sure that Chilean families have a dignified life, but without losing work,” she said.
During the first trimester of 2012, the unemployment rate in Chile showed an increase of 0.2 percent compared to the same period in 2011. However, when compared to the last 12 months, it shows a decrease of 0.7 percent.
Nowadays, the number of unemployed people in the country corresponds to 6.6 percent of the working population, according to the last report published by the National Institute of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de Estatisticas, INE).