The wages paradox here in Port Moresby

I’ve been thinking a lot about the wages situation here in PNG, lots of us talk about the same issues….

The big issue for our National staff is family commitments, with no social welfare, and very little in the way of significant employment, our teams by default start being the caregiver for their whole families. Where we in NZ get plenty of government assistance, Papua New Guineans are reliant on family or the village in order to live.

And here lies the paradox – the wage trap, the skill trap, the sole earner trap.

As soon as someone starts earning more, there is a lot more pressure to ensure that they are looking after everyone else. As income rises, so does the expectation. And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing that this happens, and maybe it’s a blueprint for crowd sourced social welfare. But the impact is significant, and as the expectation grows, the employee may start slipping in those standards that got them there in the first place. All of a sudden, they are the taxi driver, or the funeral director, or the university funder. So often I watch young Papua New Guineans drift from being the person at work first in the morning, to now not getting in on time due to having to drop off cousins, brothers, sisters etc, or ensuring that the family is OK. I worry that this will then turn into performance issues, then disciplinary action, then all of a sudden – the rising star with the big ideas and great opportunities ends up with no job, no money, and having to create a new start.

It is also amazing watching those that earn the least, being the ones getting themselves into work early, working hard, and doing their absolute best. They really need to keep their jobs, and having less money means a lessened impact on family commitments….

So today, I coined the phrase with Jono (one of my team) “the minimum for the maximum”

In other words, we need to get people to live the minimum way of life, to maximize their income, to maximize their opportunities, and to maximize their future. To work like they are just starting out, to live comfortably, and maximize the growth that they have by ensuring a future that exists for all.

Can it be done? I don’t know, but unless we do something for our young men and women, they may not be the future of this country, they may be those that just get chewed up…

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