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Mexico's Tiny Minimum Wage Is About to Increase — By Almost Nothing

An estimated seven million Mexicans struggle to get by on the country's minimum wage of just over $4 dollars a day but despite a national debate over its inability to cover basic needs, the authorities have authorized an insignificant hike for 2016.
Imagen por Joe Cavaretta/AP

Mexico's authorities have increased the country's daily minimum wage for 2016 after a year of debate over its inability to cover even basic needs. The increase approved, however, amounts to enough for an extra half pound of tortillas.

The National Minimum Wage Commission announced the 4.2 percent increase late on Friday — taking the daily minimum to 73.04 pesos, or $4.30 dollars.

An estimated seven million Mexicans struggle to get by on the minimum wage that is among the lowest in Latin America and moved to the center of debate last year after Mexico City's mayor, Miguel Angel Mancera, began pushing for a significant hike.


At the time federal officials and the private sector spokesmen said this was impossible because the minimum wage is used as the base figure from which to calculate numerous other payments — such as fines or benefits. The national legislature changed this on October 22.

"Those three pesos can't settle the historic debt we have with the people who earn the minimum wage," Mancera told reporters on Monday, referring to the tiny increase.

The Mayor is seeking to raise the wage to 86.33 pesos, or $5.07 dollars, which remains extremely low by international standards.

Local media highlighted the contrast between the authorized new minimum for 2016 and some of the end-of-year bonuses high level officials are now looking forward to.

The 2015 federal budget foresees two payments for President Enrique Peña Nieto totaling 424,478 pesos, around $25,000 dollars. Somebody earning the increased minimum wage would need to work every day for more than 16 years to earn that amount.

According to social scientist and former president of Mexico's transparency commission, Jacqueline Peschard, the paltry increase is indicative of the insignificant role social justice plays in the government's vision of development.

"Increasing minimum wages will not automatically resolve the problems of poverty and inequality," she wrote in her column in the daily El Universal, "but it is an indispensable step."

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