The Socialist Party (SP) in Zambia has raised concerns over the government’s recent decision to increase the minimum wage, arguing that it will not be enough to alleviate the high cost of living faced by many Zambians. SP spokesperson Frank Bwalya criticized the increments recently awarded to civil servants, calling them “a drop in the ocean.” He argued that with high levels of unemployment and many employers in the informal sector being unable to afford the revised wage, many workers will continue to receive low pay.
Mr Bwalya suggested that the only solution is to implement policies that improve the economy, particularly in the private sector. “The reason is very simple that with the joblessness that we have and many people who employ a majority of people in the informal sector not being able to afford to pay the revised minimum wage will simply say to the people that they have employed that I can’t pay you, it’s up to you to stay or to leave,” he said. “And a majority of our people who are usually not represented decide to keep their job, being paid less than the minimum wage. Therefore, the solution to our people getting peanuts is implementing policies that are going to improve the economy, especially the private sector so that when people get good pay will employ people in the informal sector, domestic sectors and so on…when they get better pay, then they will be able to afford paying those that they employ better salaries that will be in line with the minimum wage prescribed by the country.”
Mr Bwalya also argued that socialism is the only way to address economic challenges in the country, as capitalism prioritizes profit over the well-being of workers. “As Socialist Party, we acknowledge the reality that we have a government that is capitalist,” he said. “And people know that capitalism is about greed, it’s about profit maximization, it’s about selfishness, therefore we are not hopeful that our people under the New Dawn Government are going to see better conditions of service for themselves, those that work in the formal sector, domestic workers and so on, we are not optimistic.”
Mr Bwalya explained that socialism is about equity, justice, and the common ownership of means of production, ensuring that people can benefit from economic gains equitably. He emphasized that socialism is not about a few becoming extremely wealthy while the majority are left in poverty. “It’s not about a few becoming too rich while the majority are becoming too poor, having nothing to live on without a dignified life,” he said. “Socialism is about equity, justice, common ownership of means of production and that people can benefit from economic gains equitably. It’s about everyone having a dignified life.”
The revised minimum wage, which is set to take effect in January 2023, will apply to domestic workers, shopkeepers, and general workers, but not unionized employers. The government has stated that it will enforce adherence to the new wage and will take legal action against any employers who fail to comply. In announcing the wage increase, Minister of Labour and Social Security Brenda Tambatamba explained that it followed consultations with the Labour Advisory Committee/Council, tripartite constituencies, and other key stakeholders. She emphasized that the revised minimum wage is only applicable to vulnerable categories of employees and urged employers to adhere to it.
Ms Tambatamba announced that, in accordance with Statutory Instrument Number 69 of the Domestic Workers Order of 2018, the gross pay for domestic workers will increase from K993.60 to K1300.00. In addition, according to Statutory Instrument Number 70 of the Shop Workers Order of 2018, drivers, sales assistants, and packers will earn a gross pay of of K2, 722.57 from K1, 994.40.