The concept of the Need-Based Minimum Wage has evolved in India over sixty years of Independence and owes its origin to the Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution and the welfare policy of the Government. Its acceptance in principle connotes a public effort at an institutional determination of wage rates particularly in the industrial sector of the economy. Unfortunately the computation of the need based minimum wage has become a controversial subject in the country. While the concept of what the need based minimum wage should cover is fairly clear and generally accepted by both the employer and employee, its actual assessment into monetary terms has raised endless disputes not alone by the employer.
NEED-BASED MINIMUM WAGE FORMULA: Minimum wages for the average family will have to be based on requirements of food, clothing, housing and so on. Additional components of expenditure to cover for children’s education, medical treatment, recreation, festivals and ceremonies.
In a vast country such as ours, there are bound to be regional variations in these requirements owing to climatic conditions, food habits, etc. At the same time in order to ensure a degree of uniformity the Conference have adopted a certain norms. The food component carries the largest- proportion of the total cost of living in a working class family. The component’s significance is not only economic but human also. On food depends the health and efficiency of the worker, which is vital to the industrial production. After a protracted discussion the Conference adopted Dr. Aykroyd’s second dietary prescription of the adequate diet level, the other one being the optimum diet level. An optimum diet according to him, is one which ensures the functioning of the various life processes at their very best; whereas an adequate diet maintains these processes but not at their peak levels. The optimum diet would include more of vitamins and less of proteins in its caloric content, while the adequate diet would include more of proteins and less of vitamins.
The Committee on Fair Wages laid down that the standard working class family should be reckoned as one consisting of three consumption units, supported by a single male earner and including his wife and two children below the of age 14 The 15th Session of Indian Labour Conference approved that the wage should cover four categories of needs considered essential for the worker's well being, viz. food, clothing, housing and miscellaneous. In calculating the minimum wage, the norms for the food category should be based on Dr. W.B. Aykroyd’s formula for an adequate and balanced diet. It thus came about that a wage linked to the needs was suggested as a desirable minimum.
Subsequently, when attempting to implement the recommendations of the conference, almost all the wage fixing authorities including the committees appointed under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 have invariably faced difficulty in determining: (i) the calorific norm which should form the basis of the diet content (ii) the exact composition of the diet (iii) the qualities of the various items of diet and (iv) availabilities of food commodities consumed by the worker and his pattern of consumption. In this regard the first assault was launched by the II Central Pay Commission (1959), pertaining to the calorific norm as laid down by the 15th Indian Labour Conference. The Indian Labour Conference worked out the three-unit formula, the minimum wage is worked out taking into consideration the calorific value requirements of 2,700 each, certain length of cloth requirement, housing rental value, education and medical expenses etc
The three-unit based formula to fix minimum wages presently counts only four members of a family ie husband, wife and two children. It has no provision to count dependent parents, if any, or even if there are more than two children.
The three-unit formula gives the husband a full unit, wife 0.8 unit, and 0.6 units for each of the two children.
Now the trade unions and the employees associations are of the opinion that the three-unit system are not sufficient to decide minimum wages because the children continue to stay with the family for longer periods. The two children and wife should be accorded one single unit instead of 0.6 units,” also, marriageable age of a child has also increased and they should also be given full units, the gender equality should also be observed instead of 0.8 units it should be full unit for the spouse.
Hence should be revised to the four unit formula gives the husband a full unit, wife full unit, and full units for each of the two children.
After the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that dependent parents are to be taken care of by children, two more units should be added and the formula be based on six-unit formula than three.
“The CrPC section 125 and Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act make it mandatory for an earning member to maintain his parents, failing which he/she may have to face penal consequences. Today, the average life span of a person has increased to 68.3 years compared to that of 41 years in 1957. Hence two additional units have to be added,”
So there is a need to hike number of units from three to six to calculate minimum wages.
What is the effect of the minimum wage and the number of units, as far the Central Government Employees are concerned the 7th CPC has evolved principle of 3 units and the minimum wage is fixed at Rs 18,000/ if the units are increased to 4 units instead of 3 units the minimum wage shall have to be increased to Rs 24,000/ - .
Additional components of expenditure to cover for children’s education, medical treatment, recreation, festivals and ceremonies. This followed from the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Raptakos Brett Vs Workmen case of 1991 for determination of minimum wage of an industrial worker. The Supreme Court had prescribed this amount at 25 percent of the total minimum wage calculated from the first five components.
7th CPC report Para no 4 has also dealt the issue of a need-based minimum wage taking into the concept of the following.
a). normative family is taken to consist of a spouse and two children below the age of 14. With the husband assigned 1 unit, wife, 0.8 unit and two children, 0.6 units each, the minimum wage needs to address 3 consumption units;
b) . The food requirement per consumption unit is shown in the Annexure to this chapter. The specifications were derived from the recommendations of Dr. Wallace Aykroyd, the noted nutritionist, which stated that an average Indian adult engaged in moderate activity should, on a daily basis, consume 2,700 calories comprising 65 grams of protein and around 45-60 grams of fat. Dr Aykroyd had further pointed out that animal proteins, such as milk, eggs, fish, liver and meat, are biologically more efficient than vegetable proteins and suggested that they should form at least one-fifth of the total protein intake
c) The clothing requirements should be based on per capita consumption of 18 yards per annum, which gives 72 yards per annum (5.5 meters per month) for the average worker’s family. The 15th ILC also specified the associated consumption of detergents
d) The prescribed provision of Report of the Seventh CPC 63 Index 25 percent to cover education, recreation, ceremonies, festivals and medical expenses has been reduced to 15 percent.
Secondly the prices of essential commodities for calculation of the minimum wage is always a debate , the price essential commodities by the using Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers maintained by Labour Bureau, Shimla and the retail prices are showing different rates , the prices of essential commodities are at higher end compared to the retail prices including the state Government run co-operative society’s . The retail prices of the essential commodities are 15% more than the prices provided by the Labour Bureau, Shimla. If proper retail prices are taken into account the minimum wage shall be more than Rs 26,000/- as on 1st Jan 2016.
Secondly the revision of payment of wages act, 1936 , the Government has raised the monetary limit of wages to Rs. 24000/- per month for the applicability of the Act by issuing the notification .This calculation of Rs 24,000/ is based on Dr. W.B. Aykroyd’s formula. This is done on the basis of figures of the Consumer Expenditure Survey published by the National Sample Survey Organization.
The payment of wages act, 1936 monetary limit of wages to Rs. 24000/- per month is for unskilled worker , if we add Rs 25% for skilled worker , it work out at Rs 30000/- for skilled worker which includes wages and allowances, at present the Central Government employees at the initial stage are paid Rs 23,000/- (Rs 18,000/ as minimum wage and Rs 5,000/ as allowances ), still there is gap of Rs 7,000/ , if the minimum wage of Central Government employees is re fixed at Rs 21,000/ then this gap shall be reduced.
The breakup of the Central Government employee’s salary is as follows.
Non Metro City
Minimum wage Rs 18,000/-
HRA Rs 1800/-
Transport allowances Rs 900/-
Children education allowances Rs 2250/-
Total Salary : Rs 22950/-
The workers are deprived of the actual minimum wage. Hence we should up this issue to logical conclusion .
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