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Belize~ Minimum wage and Fatherhood

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2019. 10:24 am CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.

By Richard Harrison: Belize celebrates Fathers Day on the second Sunday of June each year.

It is thus appropriate to reflect on the status of fatherhood at this time.

While fatherhood is affected by many issues, one of the principal drivers is the minimum wage and the ever widening wealth gap between haves and have nots.

The minimum wage has remained at $3.25/hr since 2003…and approximately 25% of the working population live based on minimum wage earning.

With inflation rising at an average of 2% per annum, it means cost-of-living has increased by over 37% since 2003. This means it now takes $137 to buy the same things that $100 could buy in 2003.

A minimum wage father earns $146.25 for a 45-hour work week….and he can earn up to $220 if he works 15 hours overtime.

While each man manages his money differently and with varying degrees of “success”, one only needs a quick visit to the supermarket to find out what little $220 can purchase…and then, there is rent, utilities, clothing, health, education, entertainment, etc. The fact is, for minimum wage earners there is not anything left to manage at the end of the week…they are living mostly from “hand to mouth”.

This artificially created “scarcity” is causing many social, cultural and economic changes in Belize…

Many men continue to live under their parents roof for long after they are 18…two or three generations packed under one roof…many times with just a thin cloth curtain separating adults and children at nights.

Many are postponing or completely denying themselves commited relationships, marriages and having children…for this same basic reason.

BUT….like criminality, the good without a gun is at the mercy of the criminal with a gun. While potentially good fathers are subdued by this reality, the raging careless bulls are spreading their seeds…and thirsty women screaming for attention are willing accomplices.

By stagnating the minimum wage…all boats float lower…creating a downward pressure on all productive persons in the economy. Belize is thus facilitating the breeding of its poorest performing seeds.

To earn a little more, many men travel far from home…often staying away from their families for weeks or months. This practice has many ontoward negative effects on family health….as daily needs must and will be met…even if discretely.

A fathers struggle to be the “head of the household” is severely challenged when he cannot provide the things that have come to symbolize social status of his wife and children. It gets worse when a child learns how to earn “on the side”, and probably brings home more than dad or mom. Discipline and direction for families suffer greatly.

It is estimated that around 60% of mothers below the age of 35 are single mothers. What does that say about the market for fathers living with their families? and step-fathers? and fathers of convenience? and absentee fathers? and father helpers?

With 40% of the population living in poverty, what happens to the children of their families? For starters, children of lower income families are known to, on average, perform poorer than children from higher income families…perhaps because they do not have books, a full tummy, tutors, etc…and because they have other family and social distractions that affect them.

In short, the long stagnated minimum wage is wreaking havoc on fatherhood and thus on the health of our families. It is well known that there are those dead-beat sperm-donors in the natural environment…but the unrealistic minimum wage certainly multiplies their kind.

This injustice needs urgent corrective actions if these “unintended” consequencies of failed economic policies are to be stemmed and reversed.

Happy Fathers Day to all the good dads of Belize, especially those many thousands who still find ways for themselves and their family to triump in the face of this minimum-wage ball and chain tied to their feet…what I will call the greatest Belizean nightmare!

 

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