Molyko, Southwest Region - Buea, Cameroon


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This study on wage policy in Cameroon is presented in five Chapters. It starts with a background to the study of wage rates in Cameroon, and proceeds with the statement of the Problem which is identified to be the extravagantly low rate of the minimum wage in Cameroon which cannot afford an average livelihood of a working Cameroonian, especially amidst hiking rate of inflation and housing cost. The main objective of the study is to examine the impact of the minimum wage rate in Cameroon on the Social, political and economic livelihood of Cameroonians. To achieve this objective, the researcher adopts the qualitative research methodology which consists of the content analysis of both primary and secondary sources of data. The primary data include the Constitution of 1996, the Labour Code and other Statutory and regulatory instruments and case law. Secondary data is obtained from text books, journal articles, theses, reports and websites. The existing Literature On the Concept of Wages and the Minimum Wage and the concept of On the Concept of Social Ills is reviewed and the gap identified, which this present study has filled. In the theoretical framework, the study uses the Wage Fund Theory, Subsistence Theory, The Surplus Value Theory of Wages the Residual Claimant Theory and the Bargaining theory to explain the phenomenon of wage determination and the role of wages in an economy. A major finding of this study amongst others is that, the main employment legislation in Cameroon, the Labor Code of 1992 does not provide for a statutory minimum wage. It reserves this to be done by the Minister of Labor and Social Security, which now stands at 36,270 FCFA. The Candidate concludes amongst other things, that the minimum wage policy in Cameroon is the major cause of most, if not all of the social ills plaguing the nation. To the candidate, the amount of 36, 270 FRS is blatantly too small to meet up with the economic and social necessities of the worker not including any dependents within a month. It is one of her recommendations thatthe state should redesign the wage system to be appended to the rate of inflation




Wages being the reward for labor[1] is at the center of work, a motivating factor and an incentive for laborers to work in any organization or enterprise and even in the state civil service. This is because nobody or very few people can readily render their labor to employers without a pecuniary compensation or any other form of compensation.

However, it is undeniable that there had existed, and perhaps still exist some form of compulsory working without any form of compensation[2], for instance slavery and communal labor. But for the purpose of our analysis in this essay, we shall be concerned with formal employment relation which is remunerated.

As far back as the 14th century, it was common for the overlords in England who had laborers in their farms to exploit the employees with very little reward to for their work, barely sufficient to cover up for their daily expenses, thus maintaining them in perpetual poverty and dependence[3]. In other instances, it was the opposite. That is, most employers could not cope with the high prices employees tagged to their labor due to the enormous difference between the demand for labor which was so high, and the supply which was rather not sufficient. This exploitation of workers on the one hand, and high labor cost on the other hand in some cases gradually withered off with the development of wage policies, specifically the minimum (floor price) and the maximum (ceiling price) wage policy.

Modern minimum wage laws trace their origin to the Ordinance of Labourers (1349), which was a decree by King Edward III that set a maximumwage for labourers in medieval England[4]. King Edward III, who was a wealthy landowner, was dependent, like his lords, on serfs to work the land. In the autumn of 1348, the Black Plague reached England and decimated the population[5]. The severe shortage of labour caused wages to soar and encouraged King Edward III to set a wage ceiling[6]. Subsequent amendments to the ordinance, such as the Statute of Labourers (1351), increased the penalties for paying a wage above the set rates[7].

While the laws governing wages initially set a ceiling on compensation, they were eventually used to set a living wage. An amendment to the Statute of Labourers in 1389 effectively fixed wages to the price of food. As time passed, the Justice of the Peace, who was charged with setting the maximum wage, also began to set formal minimum wages. The practice was eventually formalized with the passage of the Act Fixing a Minimum Wage in 1604 by King James I for workers in the textile industry[8]. By the early 19th century, the Statutes of Labourers was repealed as the increasingly capitalistic United Kingdom embraced laissez-faire[9]policies which disfavoured regulations of wages (whether maximum or minimum)[10].

The movement to set minimum wages had first as rational to stop the exploitation of workers in sweatshops, by employers who were thought to have unfair bargaining power over them and later, the supporters of this point argued that it increases the standard of living of workers, reduces poverty, reduces inequality, and boosts morale[11]. In contrast, opponents of the minimum wage say it increases poverty and unemployment because some low-wage workers “will be unable to find work, and will be pushed into the circle of the unemployed”[12] Over time, minimum wages came to be seen as a way to help lower-income families.

Modern national laws enforcing compulsory union membership which prescribed minimum wages for their members were first passed in New Zealand and Australia in the 1890s. Although wage policies are now in effect in many jurisdictions, differences of opinion exist about the benefits and drawbacks of a minimum wage. Most countries including Cameroon had introduced the wage legislations (and minimum wage legislation) by the end of the 20th century[13].

Cameroon within this domain of employment laws, has effected series of labor law modifications and changes since independence, and amongst which include the Federal Labor Code of 1967 laid down by Law No. 67/LF of 12 June 1967, the Unitary Labor Code of 1974 laid down by Law No. 74/14 of 27 March 1974 and recently, the current labor code laid down by Law No. 92/007 of 14 August 1992. As of the oldest code, the minimum wage stood at 28000 FCFA (Twenty-Eight Thousand francs), which was later increased in the latest code of 1992, following serious demands for wage increment and now stands at 36,270 FCFA (Thirty-two Thousand Two-hundred and Seventy francs) per month contrary to the demands from the representatives of the employees’ Association who wanted a minimum of 150, 000 FCFA Francs, and failed to secure even a seemingly agreeable amount of 60, 000 FCFA proposed by the representatives of the Employers’ Union. However, the above figure 36, 270 FCFA applies only to the private sector, yet with the open room for bargaining between the employer and employee.

In the public sector which is not regulated by the labor code, the minimum wage seems to stand at 44,000 FCFA francs per month (usually the lowest ranks like cleaners and low grade clerks) while the highest salary stands at 330, 000 FCFA Francs ( usually with the highest grade in the civil service  which the Category A2 civil servants)[14].


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