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Jun 30, 2017

The Pitfalls of Living at Minimum Wage

Cordel Hyde

Five years ago, the minimum wage for working Belizeans was raised to three dollars and thirty cents. In that time, the cost of living has increased hundredfold, exacerbated by high gas prices and other shocks to the economy. Last week, there was a small protest and rally in Belize City by Belize Leaders for Social Justice to bring the issue out to the public. Despite the derision of participants by Mesopotamia area representative Michael Finnegan, who later boasted of pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, Lake Independence area representative Cordel Hyde painted the desperate picture faced by those who don’t even have boots to strap.

 

Cordel Hyde, Area Rep., Lake Independence

“For the almost sixty thousand Belizeans who are making just three dollars and thirty cents per hour, this is no laughing matter. And Madam Speaker, when you strip it down to the real, when you get down to the bottom of it, this issue of a minimum wage that is below a living wage, means early and premature deaths for a lot of people, because the truth of the matter is a lot of people who are on minimum wage can’t really afford to buy healthy food. And so they end up eating and having a lifestyle that is unhealthy, that leads to diabetes, cardiovascular issues, high cholesterol, cancer and the list goes on. Those preventable diseases are the leading causes of death in this country, not murder. Hundreds upon hundreds of Belizeans die needlessly each year because of these preventable diseases and a lot of these people who die are in their early forties, early fifties. That should not be happening in this country. The truth of the matter is, Madam Speaker, we should check the profile of these people who are dying needlessly every year and see what is their income, if they have any, and I think that would tell a very serious picture. A minimum wage below a living wage means low educational output. Imagine living in a room with your siblings and having to study in that room, a cramped room; or you have to move from house to house because your mother cannot afford the rent, and then we wonder why the P.S.E. scores are so low. If you are on minimum wage, in order to rent a house, a decent two-bedroom house, you are looking at three hundred, three hundred fifty dollars, maybe more, each month; that’s more than half your salary if you’re on minimum wage. The experts say that you should not spend more than thirty percent of your monthly salary on rent or a mortgage, anything beyond that is unsustainable. In our times a lot of our people have to rent rooms, and they can’t get a room for less than seventy-five dollars a week. If you are making a hundred and forty or a hundred and fifty dollars, that leaves you with sixty or seventy dollars a week to deal with food, to deal with utilities, to deal with clothing, to deal with transportation, to deal with education, babysitting – God forbid someone gets sick in your family and requires urgent medical attention. You see where I am going with this, Madam Speaker? The reality is that a lot of our people are working full-time but they are still living in poverty. This is a rich country; this should not be happening.  This is unconscionable.”

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1 Response for “The Pitfalls of Living at Minimum Wage”

  1. Marie says:

    Yes, they also have a lot of land where they can grow their own fruits/vegetables but most are lazy and prefer to eat greasy Chinese food, drink lots of alcohol and eat lots of carbohydrates.

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