Federated States of Micronesia President David W. Panuelo has endorsed a congressional bill that would raise government salaries by 8 percent.
At the same time, Panuelo urged state governments to bump up the minimum wage in their respective jurisdictions, noting that the nation’s low pay rates have resulted in brain drain.
While there is a growing demand for wage hike, Panuelo said the national government does not have the authority to make adjustments to pay rates for local governments and the private sector in Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae.
“I am increasingly hearing calls for a minimum wage of $15 per hour," Panuelo said. "While I am sure the FSM’s public and private sectors cannot afford a minimum wage of $15 an hour, I call on our state governments of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae to consider increasing their respective minimum wages.".
He said the minimum wages in the four states are too low for citizens to live on. “Hardworking citizens who put in their 80 hours every two weeks often find themselves with paychecks totaling one hundred dollars or less,” Panuelo said.
Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the president said many FSM citizens have found it difficult to meet their needs for food, power and water utilities, healthcare and housing expenses.
FSM's minimum wage is $2.65 per hour for employment with the national government. All states have a minimum hourly wage for government workers: $2 in Pohnpei,$1.25 in Chuuk,$1.42 in Kosrae and $1.60 in Yap; and $1.75 for private sector workers in Pohnpei..
He said the paltry earnings drive FSM’s most talented to leave for the United States in search of greener pastures.
In the government sector, “public servants deserve to be appropriately compensated for their hard work,” Panuelo said in a statement.
“When even our own government’s employees opt out of government healthcare programs because they cannot afford both healthcare and food, or when citizens must choose between a sack of rice for their family or shoes for their children, it suggests that our nation’s wealth inequality remains as much of an existential threat to our continued sovereignty and wellbeing as climate change,” the president said.