The legal minimum wage in Jordan is measured by the monthly pay. It is measured worldwide by the pay per work hour.
This difference has, of course, a meaning. It indicates the lower value of time, in our minds, and its relation to production.
To facilitate the comparison between a pay per month in Jordan and a pay per hour elsewhere, it is necessary to convert the minimum monthly pay in Jordan, amounting to JD150, into a pay in dollars per hour; it was found to be around JD1 per hour, or the equivalent of $1.4.
This modest amount of money has to be compared to $7.5 in the US and Canada, $10 in Britain, $13 in France, and $14.9 in Australia.
It is obvious that the minimum wage per hour in Jordan is very relatively very low. It does not exceed one fifth of the minimum wage in America and one tenth of the minimum wage in Australia.
One may rightly take exception vis-à-vis this rough comparison from two valid points of view.
The first is that the per capita income and the standard of living in America and Europe are much higher than the per capita income and the average standard of living in Jordan.
The second is that the productivity of the American or German labourer is much higher than the productivity of the Jordanian labourer, so much so that some Jordanian employers claim that wages in Jordan are actually higher than the prevailing rate abroad if we take productivity into account.
Based on this fact, raising the minimum wage should be accompanied by improving productivity to justify the move.
These days, there is demand for raising the minimum monthly wage to JD200. Even if this were granted, the Jordanian labourer’s family will be living below the poverty line unless it has another source of income, usually a working wife and/or sons and daughters, to supplement the family income.
Some economists claim that raising the minimum wage may hurt the working class, which are meant to be helped by the action, because it will reduce demand on labourers and increase unemployment.
They also say that enforcing a minimum wage is in itself harmful to the weakest groups of job seekers, such as women, old people and those with disabilities.
If the employer has to pay the same wage, why should he or she not give priority to young and strong men?
It is also claimed that higher minimum wages will encourage replacing guest workers with local labourers. The assumption is that guest workers, Egyptians or Syrians, accept lower pay than the minimum.
The fact, however, is the opposite. Guest workers are already drawing wages higher than the legal minimum, sometimes higher than double that much, because supply and demand in the market made that possible.
Employers prefer guest workers not because they accept lower pay, but due to personal and behavioural factors, such as obedience and working more hours per day.