Malawi may end up grappling with untold malnutrition related illnesses among thousands of farm workers especially women as they are failing to meet nutritional requirements because they are receiving exactly the meager minimum wage or something slightly above that.
A study which the Centre for Social Concern (CFSC)–a social arm of the Roman Catholic Church in Malawi–conducted in some farms across the country, has revealed such appalling conditions among the farm workers.
The findings of the study were presented Thursday in the Capital Lilongwe to stakeholders that, among others, included officials from Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (ECAM) and Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU).
The development has triggered two pertinent calls.
And these are; That the minimum wage–which has just been pushed to MK50,000 by the new regime in the country–must be further increased to MK70,000.
That employees, such as the farm workers being referred to in the study, must be receiving a living wage pegged at between MK150,000 to MK200,000 in order to alleviate high levels of poverty.
All along, the minimum wage has been at MK35,000.
CFSC Program Officer for Economic Governance, Benard Mphepo, said the study wanted to compare the cost of living of farm workers to the minimum wage set by the government and to the actual amount their employers pay them.
He said the intention was to bring forth the information so that relevant stakeholders can see the glaring gaps and take necessary measures to help the workers–most of who have so many children to look after.
“It is sad. The workers are either receiving MK35,000 or MK39,000. This is too little and as a result they cannot afford their basic needs.
“We discovered that their uptake for good food and nutrition is not sufficient to keep their bodies fit. This situation is dangerous because it is a bleeding ground for a plethora of illnesses that government may find difficult to handle,” said Mphepo.
CFSC Director, Father James Ngahy, concurred with Mphepo, adding that employers of such people do not actually care at all about all these conditions.
He said it is sad that women are the most affected.
“These women work very hard, long hours and very often are not recognized for what they do. We exposed their issues so that they can be assisted and empowered. They do not have the platform to express their concerns,” said Ngahy.
Jessie Ching’oma, Deputy Director at MCTU, described the findings of the study as disgusting, saying the situation pushes the farm workers especially women to extreme poverty.
“They cannot afford a basic living or a livelihood. They cannot take care of their children. No wonder, this forces the children into child labour or hazardous forms of child labour including inter-generational poverty,” she said.
She further said MCTU is working hard with all relevant stakeholders to address issues of wages across the country in order to achieve a decent life for workers.
And in his remarks, ECAM Deputy Executive Director, Emmanuel Nkhukuzalira Magomero, said employers must consider paying their workers the living wage because this will increase their morale and productivity–things that will lead to their own transformation and that of the country.
He noted that one of the means of achieving the living wage for workers in Malawi is, for instance, increasing the tax free threshold to MK100,000 as the new government has just done.
Magomero said such moves will enable people to have disposable incomes, hence achieving the living wage indirectly.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :