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If these are not the toughest times an average Pakistani citizen has faced, the toughest must have been close to unbearable. Runaway inflation has not spared anyone, and more and more rounds of trickle-down inflation are still in order. The about to be concluded 3QFY23 promises to be the worst ever in terms of real wages for the construction sector – despite it being the second-best quarter in terms of wage growth. Construction sector real wages are bound to be 17 percent in the red – 14the straight quarter of negative real wage growth. That is three and a half years of daily wagers constantly worse off.

The picture would seem scarier if you were to plot the construction wages against weekly SPI readings instead of national CPI. The painters, mason, plumbers and electricians would mostly fall into the bottom two quintiles of the SPI – the rate of inflation where has been north of 40 percent of late. Imagine the plight of the working class.

Floods surely played their role in accelerating the pace of price increase for both perishable and non-perishable food. In less than a year – wheat flour has increased as much as it did in three and a half years prior to that. Same is the case with cooked daal, which will soon have increased by more than the period between Aug 2018 to Apr 2022. A cup of tea now averages Rs47 – doubled in less than four years.

Since April 2022 –average wages of construction workers have increased by 13 percent – which could be considered decent in most times. But the last 12 months have been anything but ordinary. A plate of cooked daal and tea are both dearer by 36 percent from a year ago, while wheat flour is up 52 percent. The price of a standard meal for a labor after a day’s hard work is up over 40 percent in less than a year. These are never before seen events, and since most of the increase has happened in non-perishable food items – there is a high chance of the retail prices staying elevated in the foreseeable nature given the downward sticky nature of most non-perishable food prices.

High time the authorities realize the pain of the low-income segment and help them more via direct transfers instead of thinking of fancy, impractical measures such as fuel subsidy to two-wheelers.


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KU Mar 24, 2023 08:54pm
The reality of our wage and salary structure is that there is no mechanism or official structure that lists the various skill type with minimum wages per hour. Industry and businesses have a free hand when negotiating wages with their employees, and they know there is no law that binds them to a skill-set wage structure. In the presence of a large population and low employment opportunities, skilled and unskilled workers are easily exploited. Reimagine Pakistan? Yup, this is the 21st century and unlike other progressive countries, we don't have any legislation on wage/salary structure nor do we review the economic basket sufficient for people to survive, but we do have an annual announcement by the Civil Raj that grant labor wages, and tell the nation to be thankful.
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Shahbaz Ali Mar 25, 2023 06:49pm
Expolsive population growth has devalued human resources in Pakistan especially manual labour. We have lowest wages for manual labour whereas it is difficult to get construction workers at all. This is all due to too many people chasing too few jobs. I hope these tough times nudge fellow Pakistanis to keep family size to what is affordable.
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