Increase minimum wage by Rs 199, cut calorie intake by 300, suggests expert panel

Suggestions include different national minimum wages across different geographical regions in the country to suit local requirement

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Tuesday 19 February 2019

An expert committee set up by Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) has recommended a national minimum wage of Rs 375, up from Rs 176 (as of June 1, 2017), while reducing the calorie intake (per person and per day) from 2,700 to 2,400.

The seven-member expert committee on determining the methodology for fixing the national minimum wage, set up on January 17, 2018, has come up with the suggestions after making a number of changes in the previous recommendations.

Reduction in calorie intake is one of the most important changes it has made. However, it has also taken protein and fats into consideration unlike before.

If its recommendations are accepted, the minimum wage would be calculated considering intake (per adult person per day) of 2,400 calories, 50 grams of protein and 30 grams of fats.

Also Read: It takes more than half of India’s minimum wage for a nutritious diet

In its report, the panel states that the population’s level of activity has changed — there has been a reduction in the proportion of workers engaged in heavy work, and increase in the number of workers involved in moderate and sedentary occupations.

Taking this into account, it has recommended that the calories required (per person per day) by daily wage labourers be reduced. 

It has, hence, recommended that the national minimum wage be set at Rs 375 per day as of July 2018. This is equivalent to Rs 9,750 per month irrespective of the sectors, skills, occupations and rural-urban locations.

As per the five recommendations of 15th session of Indian Labour Conference (ILC) held in July 1957, the daily wage was decided considering the cost of 2,700 calories per adult person per day.

In 1996, the minimum daily wage was fixed at Rs 35 considering the calories intake. This rate has gradually been scaled considering inflation, and on June 1, 2017, it was Rs 176 per day.

Vandana Prasad, a public health professional, says the addition of 50 grams of protein is a welcome step. However, she said that the limit of 2,400 calories per person per day is too low for labourers, especially in the context of prevailing malnutrition.

Prasad argues that a man doing heavy work needs approximately 3,500 calories, while a woman needs about 2,850 calories. She further says that a man engaged in moderate work needs approximately 2,700 calories, while a woman needs around 2,230 calories.

“It must be noted that the minimum wage is decided for the working class, and not the obesity-prone middle class,” she adds.

Other major changes recommended by the committee include different national minimum wages across different geographical regions in the country to suit local requirement as well as socio-economic and labour markets. Earlier, there was single national minimum wage across the country.

Further, the committee has suggested a change in the number of family units considered while deciding the daily wage. It has recommended that instead of the earlier three units — husband, wife and two children — the consumption units should be set at 3.6 for calculating the minimum wage.

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