International Symposium on Minimum Wage Trends in ASEAN Countries
JILAF held an international symposium at the Japan Education Center in Tokyo on November 28 on the theme of “Minimum Wage Trends in ASEAN Countries: What Should Trade Unions Do to Improve National Life?” The symposium was attended by about 80 people from member organizations of RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), the government, research institutes, and employers’ organizations.
In the symposium, six re-invitation team representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam delivered reports on such topics as minimum wage conditions and the efforts of trade unions in their own countries. (Re-invitation teams consist of past participants in the JILAF invitation program who are invited to visit Japan again.)
While the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been achieving spectacular economic growth lately, corporate profits are not being distributed fairly to workers, so the income gaps in those countries are noticeably widening. In addition, people’s livelihoods are becoming increasingly harsh due to sharp inflation, and labour-management disputes over wages are occurring frequently.
In these circumstances, trade unions in ASEAN countries are facing the question of how to protect the people’s livelihood. The speakers reported on the efforts of unions to address the minimum wage, including active moves to achieve a hike in the minimum wage. In the discussions, the participants recognized the common issues facing their countries, including Japan, such as the existence of economic and various other disparities between urban areas and provincial regions, the state of enforcement of legislation, and the gap in thinking between the government and employers on the one hand and trade unions on the other. Furthermore, it was pointed out that while Japanese companies with operations in these countries are applying minimum wages in accordance with the law, there are many multinational companies that do not apply the statutory minimum wages, as well as differences in degree of response to domestic legislation, the response to workers who are excluded from application, the many workers who are facing difficulties because of low minimum wage levels, and other issues. From now on also, trade unions in these countries will continue to lobby their governments so that as many workers as possible can receive the minimum necessary wages.
Amid the view that Japanese companies are going to shift their production sites from China to the ASEAN region, attention in Japan is focusing on minimum wage trends in ASEAN countries. In the panel discussion, therefore, there were lively questions and answers on such topics as methods of determining the minimum wage and scope of application.