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Paltry minimum wage not enough

By Zachery Per

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 23, 2008) – Female low income earners were turning to prostitution to supplement their income, two Christian organisations told the Minimum Wages Board (MWB) hearing in Goroka, Eastern Highlands province, yesterday.

The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and the Goroka Pastors Fraternal told the second day of hearing that women earning minimum wages were facing extreme financial difficulties and had no choice but to turn to prostitution.

Fr John Ryan, Major David Temine from the Salvation Army and YWCA spokesperson Elizabeth Joseph also told the MWB that prostitution in turn led to a sharp increase in HIV/AIDS.

Fr Ryan and Major Temine, appearing for the Pastors Fraternal, expressed dissatisfaction over the unfair classification of wage ranges, saying that people earning minimum wages should be exempted from paying school fees.

Mrs Joseph confirmed providing counselling to women who turned to prostitution and created training opportunity for them to secure higher paying jobs.

She told members of the MWB and Government representatives that the current minimum wage could not simply last two weeks.

Mrs Joseph said the unemployed women were worse off than working women and turned to prostitution because sex was the only way to earn big and quick money.

She said YWCA provided counselling, rehabilitation and trainings for women and also supplied them with materials and equipment to improve their standard of living.

"However, our efforts have been hampered by the deteriorating rural transport infrastructures, we cannot reach our clients in the rural areas, we have 30 groups in rural areas," Mrs Joseph said.

She said the appalling infrastructures forced women to come to town to seek better services but they ended up as prostitutes because goods and services cost money.

Youth minimum wage earners Levi Kope and Max Caspar, who appeared before the hearing, called on the Government to increase the minimum wage to at least K200 to K300.

They claimed the current National Youth Minimum Wage of K27.90 per week could not sustain them and "therefore, youths resort to crime to make ends meet".

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