Colombia hikes minimum wage 7 percent for 2016

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Colombian pesos
Colombian pesos

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]olombia’s minimum wage in the New Year will stand at $689,455 pesos per month. The figure is a 7 percent increase — or $45,104 pesos — over 2015, according to Labor Minister Luis Garzón, who tweeted the news on Wednesday morning.

The transportation subsidy will increase 5 percent to $77,700 pesos per month.

At least 1.25 million Colombians earn the minimum salary, according to the Labor Ministry.

“My obligation is to find the maximum of the minimum when at all possible, and I will do everything I can,” said Garzón in a statement earlier this month.

Colombia’s Labor Ministry had negotiated for weeks with national labor groups to determine the size of the wage increase.

For 2016, the increase roughly keeps up with consumer price index increases, which Colombia’s national Bank of the Republic pegged at 6.39 percent in November.

That upset labor groups, who argue that even a higher minimum wage has lost strength against inflation and other costs such as energy and water which have gone up recently due to an unusually strong El Niño phenomenon.

The nation’s value added tax or IVA could also increase in 2016.

National labor leaders had asked for a wage increase as high as 11 percent, while business groups requested 6.8 percent. Colombia is required by a Constitutional Court ruling to keep minimum wage increases above the consumer price index.

Colombia’s minimum salary is less than $1 USD per hour, one of the lower allowable wages in Latin America. The country’s cost of living is also one of the lowest in South America, although prices for housing, food and other goods vary considerably by city and region.

Nearly half of all labor in Colombia is informal, according to statistics from the National Statistical Administrative Department, meaning that employees may earn less than the minimum wage. The percentage of Colombians working informally has been gradually decreasing for years.

Colombia’s Labor Ministry also announced Wednesday morning that November’s unemployment rate fell to 7.3 percent, which is the lowest in 15 years.

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