My Pay Can't Sustain Me

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 By Meluse Kapatamoyo

Zambia’s low minimum wage of 260,000 Kwacha (US$50) is encouraging investors to pay slave wages to their Zambian employees, who are hardly able to survive out of their monthly pay.

George Bwalya, a cashier in a fabrics shop in Lusaka’s cosmopolitan trading centre, Kamwala, gets just slightly above the national minimum wage, yet survival is still a monthly struggle for him and his family of three.

Bwalya told Mywage Zambia: “I have been working for three years as a cashier in a (Chinese-owned) shop; but my salary has remained the same. My boss pays me K300, 000 ($52) per month and when I complain, he (the employer) says I get more than what the law requires him to pay me. He says if I am unhappy, I should leave as there are thousands of people in Zambia waiting to take my place.

“He knows I am not going anywhere. It took me five years to get this job, it may not meet all my needs but it pays some of my bills, which for me is very important. From the money, I rent a single room (apartment) for K150, 000 which I share with my wife and two children. Luckily for me, the rent is inclusive of water and electricity bills.

“The little that is left is spent on food and other emergencies. I walk to work everyday, because I can’t afford a minibus fare. I leave home at 06:00 hours to make it in time for work at 08:00 hours. I eat once a day and that is when I get home. My children cannot afford the basic necessities such as sugar, milk or other nutritional foods.

“I worry what kind of future my children will have, that is if they live long enough to have a future. With what I am earning, there is no money left for savings.  

“As much as I blame my employers for the low salary because they too know how expensive things have become over the years, I think the bigger blame should be put on the government. These are the leaders (that) we have entrusted to ensure that investors and employers pay their workers decent wages.

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