The minimum wage should be raised by more than 10 per cent over three years to allow low income families to meet their basic needs, a new coalition of social justice organisations has urged.

Kampanja Paga Minima Diċenti, which launched this morning, is calling for a 3.5 per cent increase for three consecutive years, as well as a revision of the cost-of-living mechanism to better reflect low earners’ circumstances.

In a tweet this afternoon, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said "I believe that this NGO proposal for an increase in the minimum wage is reasonable and ought to be supported."

As things stand, employers are bound by law to pay employees a minimum of €4.20 an hour. Research by Caritas has pointed to the fact that this is not enough for families to meet even their most basic daily needs.

A family consisting of two parents and two children would need an annual income of €11,446 for a decent standard of living, according to the Caritas report, but families on one minimum wage are forced to live on €9,353, including in-work benefits and other allowances.

The Prime Minister announced last week that he would be initiating a debate on raising the minimum wage, but employers have warned that the increase would hurt small businesses as well as keeping people from participating in the labour market because of a lack of job opportunities.

Speaking at the campaign launch this morning, Charles Miceli from Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar argued that the benefits of economic growth were not being felt by low earners.

He said that although the government had acknowledged the problem by increasing in-work and supplementary benefits, social justice demanded more.

“We cannot sit around and wait for all the social partners to agree. We had similar drawn-out debates years ago when the minimum wage was first introduced. People voted for a government and it is the government that has to take a decision – not taking a decision on this issue is a decision in itself.”

Mr Miceli also called for the tax-free pension scheme introduced in the recent Budget to be extended to all low earners up to the same €13,000 cap.

Caritas Director Leonid McKay stressed that raising the minimum wage would have a positive impact on all workers – pushing up wages slightly above the minimum – as well as the economy as a whole.

Such a measure, he said, would increase economic activity and could lead to further economic growth, as seen in other countries that raised their minimum wage.

Campaigners also cited leading local economists who have argued that the effects on most firms and employment growth would be minimal, and argued that the government could take measures to support small businesses affected by the change.

The campaign includes: Aditus Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar, Caritas, Forum Bormliż, Integra Foundation, Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust, Malta Humanist Association, Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl, Millennium Chapel, Moviment Graffitti, Paulo Freire Institute, Peace Lab, The Critical Institute, Third World Group and Żminijietna - Voice of the Left.

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