Minimum Wage in Uganda – The Long Awaited Legislation

For anyone wanting to see the minimum wage in Uganda might have to pause because its approval by the president never came to fruition even after parliament passed the legislation. In February 2019, Parliament unanimously passed the Minimum Wage Bill, 2015 which was disallowed by the President in August 2019.

A minimum wage is the lowest payment that employers can legally pay their workers. It is also known as the “price base” below which an employee may not accept to sell his or her labour. It is on record that most countries had introduced minimum wage legislation by the end of the 20th century.

In Uganda, it has been quite a while since the lowest wage permitted by law was established. Up to 2021, the minimum wage in Uganda has been UGX 60,00 (About USD 1.6) per month which had been the last set in 1984.

If you can compare Uganda’s minimum wage with other countries, it turns out that the minimum wage is $95.00 in International Currency. In Uganda, International Currency is a measure of currency based on the value of the United States dollar.

If ranked by minimum wage, Uganda is number 121 of 197 something that pushed the country to the bottom percent of all countries based on the yearly minimum wage rate.

After several years, this minimum wage structure no longer adequately reflects actual labour market trends or the economic development of different sectors of activity. I can simply say that there is no minimum wage in Uganda.

It was Until 2019 when members of the 10th parliament made an effort to establish a minimum wage for Uganda.  It was wage set at Uganda shillings 136,000 after parliament passed the Minimum Wage Bill, 2015. The bill sought to set up a minimum wage determination mechanism and curb employee exploitation.

In countries where trade union movements are strong, Collective bargaining can be a means to fix minimum wages. In these countries, it is easy to find 90 percent of the workforce covered by collective agreements.

Unfortunately, the trade unions in Uganda have not been strong enough to cover the majority of the workers. This means the government can’t rely solely on collective bargaining to determine the minimum wage.

In neighboring countries like Kenya, there are Minimum Consolidated Wages by Region and Occupation. They simplify it by setting a Minimum Wage per Hour, a Daily Minimum Wage, and a Monthly Price Floor.

One most important thing employer must know is that minimum wage applies to all categories of workers including professional, skilled, or unskilled. This takes care of the housemaids who are always a target of exploitation along with heavy loads of work.

Uganda needs an urgent decentralized process, coordinated at a higher level to deal with negotiations with the executive arm of government and end labour exploitation. This would be a more appropriate approach coordinated by the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, The Federation of Uganda Employers, The Minimum Wage Advisory Board, Workers’ Representatives, and Management Consultants.

This process can easily lead to the setting of the minimum wages by sector and/or occupations because the social partners would guide the government on the practicability at a decentralized level, but under the general coordination of tripartite coordination at the national level.

Commitment has to start with Ratifications of C131 – Minimum Wage Fixing Convention, 1970 (No. 131). Currently, Uganda is not among the 54 ratifications registered by the International labour organization. This came into force at the Fifty-fourth Session on 3 June 1970 in Geneva by the Governing Body of the International Labour Office.

The government has to oblige to just and fair pay for workers who endures extra working hours. In Uganda, the specified Days per week are 6, Hours per week specified are 48.

All Workers in Uganda are entitled to at least 1 day of rest per week (24 consecutive hours) – Section 51 of the Employment Act, 2006. Despite these specifications in the law some employers of unskilled workers and mostly in the informal sector tend to extend working hours with low pay.

With a minimum wage, there is a smile on the faces of those who perform very important tasks but are not well remunerated. These categories of workers include Cleaners, Gardeners, General Workers, House Servants, Children’s ayah, Sweepers, Day watchmen, Messengers, Cooks, Waiters, Miners, Stonecutters, Turn boys, Logger line cutters, Night Watchmen, Machine attendants, Sawmill sawyers, Machine assistants, Mass production machinists, Shoe cutters, Bakery workers, Bakery assistants, Tailor’s assistants, Car driver, Printing machine operators, Bakery machine operators, Plywood machine operators, Sawmill dressers, Shop assistants, Machine tool operators, Dough makers, Table hand bakers, Table hand confectioners, Copy-typists, Light vans drivers, etc.

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About the Author: Robert Mwesige

Robert Mwesige is a Certified Trainer of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Financial Literacy Trainer of Bank of Uganda (BOU). He is the Learning & Development Specialist and Chief Talent Officer at Houston Executive Consulting. Robert Mwesige is a Google Certified Digital Marketing Professional. He is the Content Designer (Web Editor), and SEO Consultant at Geotech ICT Consulting – Uganda.