Since 2011, when the federal jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour in Pakistan devolved to the country’s provinces, minimum wage rates have been considered and recommended by tripartite Provincial Minimum Wage Boards that recommend minimum wages for all industrial establishments’ employees, whether skilled, unskilled, apprentices, or home workers. These recommendations, though technically advisory only, are regularly adopted by the provinces, and become enforceable when accepted and notified by their respective governments.
However, discrepancies between the recommendations of neighboring provinces can lead to depressed wages among some workers doing the same job as other higher-paid workers nearby — as is currently the case in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab, where much of the garment industry in Pakistan is concentrated. To bring lower-paid workers in Sindh Province up to the wage levels of their peers in Punjab, the FLA issue brief below calls on the Minimum Wage Board in Sindh to specify higher minimum wage rates for skilled and semi-skilled workers. The FLA likewise urges the Sindh Provincial Labor Department to set detailed minimum wages according to comparable prevailing wages based on skill level.
At the same time, while local minimum wage setting procedures have exacerbated the problem of low wages, brands sourcing apparel and textiles from Pakistan need not wait on the government to act before working with suppliers in support of fair compensation for workers. With current wage levels in Pakistan for most skilled workers falling well short of living wage estimates recommended by unions and civil society, action by brands and suppliers is needed to provide workers with wages that meet FLA Fair Labor Code standards.
JULY 2018 UPDATE: The FLA joined with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research and the Labour Education Foundation to ask the Sindh Province Wages Board to set the minimum wage rates for skilled and semi-skilled workers in different industries as of this year to prevent a decrease in wages for semi-skilled and skilled workers.