Following the country’s independence in October 1960, the Labour Union pressed the government to regulate the minimum wage. However, it was not until 1978, when Hassan Sunmonu became the NLC’s first president, that a structured minimum wage was created for Nigerian employees. In 1981, he proposed a ₦300-a-month minimum wage. Eventually, President Shehu Shagari and the administration led by Hassan Sunmonu agreed to a monthly salary of ₦125 after an extensive strike.
Between 1989 and 1990, the NLC engaged in another pay negotiation. As a result, in 1991, wages increased from ₦125 to ₦250. In January 1999, the minimum wage was increased to ₦3,000 for State workers and ₦3,500 for Federal workers. This was amended to ₦5,500 for State employees and ₦7,500 for Federal employees in 2001, following two years of labour discussions with the government.
The National Minimum Wage Act was passed in 2011, raising the minimum wage to ₦18,000. In April 2019, the Federal Government increased the minimum wage from ₦18,000 to ₦30,000 in response to labour union demand.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines a minimum wage as one that guarantees workers (and, in some cases, their families) a basic minimum income sufficient to meet their own needs and those of their families.
In a country where the minimum monthly cost of living is ₦185,814 for individuals, according to numbeo.com, Nigeria’s minimum wage does not meet the ILO’s definition of an acceptable minimum wage. Additionally, at $72 per month, the majority of employees receiving the minimum wage will fall significantly below the United Nations’ established poverty line of $1.08 per day if they have a household with more than one dependent.
In 2013, economist Jim O’Neill invented the acronym ‘MINT,’ which stands for Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey. Countries on the MINT list were selected according to many criteria including economic development and demography as well as geography and internet use. Nigeria’s minimum wage is lower than its worldwide counterparts, owing to economic variables affecting earnings.
The Minimum Wage in some African + Middle Eastern countries
- Mexico: Mexico had a GDP per capita of $8,346.70 in 2020. The National minimum wage per day in Mexico is Mex$172.87 in 2021. This is 2.7 times larger than Nigeria’s minimum wage using official CBN rates.
- Indonesia: Indonesia had a GDP per capita of $3,869.59 in 2020. The Jakarta region has a minimum wage of $312 per month in 2021. This is nearly 4 times Nigeria’s minimum wage.
- Turkey: Turkey had a GDP per capita of $8,538.17 in 2020. The Turkish Government raised its minimum wage by 21.56% as of January 1, 2021, to $377 a month for single people, which is nearly 5 times Nigeria’s minimum monthly wage.
The Minimum Wage in some Western countries
- Ghana: The monthly minimum wage in Ghana is $43.44.
- Kenya: Kenya’s minimum wage is set by the government by location, age, and skillset; the lowest urban minimum wage was $88 per month and the lowest agricultural minimum wage for unskilled workers was $22.08 per month. Kenya’s minimum wage was last changed on 1 May 2015.
- Tanzania: As of July 2013, Tanzania’s minimum wage ranges from $17 to $172 per month, depending on the sector.
- Guinea Bissau: Since 2015, every legally employed person has received a minimum monthly wage of $30.
- UAE: The minimum wage in the UAE ranges from $816.77 to $1361.28 depending on the level of education.
Economic Impact of Minimum Wages
- Portugal: The minimum wage in Portugal is $701.79 per month for 12 payments or $601.53 per month for 14 payments.
- Spain: The minimum wage in Spain is $867.62 per month for 12 payments and $743.67 per month for 14 payments.
- Germany: The minimum wage in Germany amounts to $1,466 per month.
- France: France’s government-mandated minimum wage is $1,6664 per month.
- USA: The federal minimum wage in the USA amounts to $7.25 per hour.
- United Kingdom: The minimum wage in the UK ranges from $5.42 to $9.75 per hour depending on the age of the worker.
The issue regarding minimum wage’s unanticipated implications on employment stems from fundamental supply and demand: as labour becomes more expensive, firms may hire fewer of it. In the basic supply and demand model, salaries are equal to the ‘value marginal product of labour’ — the value a worker adds to the production of the employer.
As the number of people recruited increases, it is expected that this marginal product decreases; maintaining all other inputs like machinery and materials equal, extra workers will make lower economic contributions. Consequently, the demand for labour declines as the marginal product decreases. Wages are determined by the supply and demand for labour in the market. In this scenario, a government-mandated minimum wage that is higher than the market wage will result in job losses.
Increasing the minimum wage would improve the overall standard of living for minimum wage workers, by providing them with a more appropriate income level to handle the cost of living. However, this may contribute to inflation in two ways; increased expenses for companies who would have to increase the price of their products and services to cover their increased labour costs, and also increased spending by workers due to a rise in the price of goods and services.
Minimum wage employees in Nigeria have been exempted from paying personal income tax as part of the government’s efforts to boost the economy and enhance their standard of living, according to a press release. Despite this incentive, recent policies by the government such as the increase in VAT from 5% to 7.5% and also shortage + hike in price of fuel, subpar and unpredictable power supply, low manufacturing and high importation of goods, as well as inflation, have further reduced the disposable income of Nigerians.