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Guatemala's New Low Minimum Wage Under Flak From UN Rights Experts

Guatemala's recent decision to introduce a differentiated minimum wage to promote the local manufacturing industry not only violates the country's international human rights obligations but undermines its international commitment to pursue sustainable development,
UN rights experts warned on Tuesday.

The Guatemala government introduced a differentiated minimum monthly wage 44 percent lower than the national one, for workers employed in light manufacturing in the municipalities of Estanzuela, Masagua, San Agustín and Guastatoya in Guatemala.

Reacting to the introduction of the new minimum wage, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, said "Having an exploited labour force is not a viable way to foster economic and social development."

The new local minimum wage of 1500 quetzals, the equivalent of US $195, stands in sharp contrast with the national minimum wage of some 2650 quetzals (US$350) that applies to agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. There are concerns that this decision may be extended to other sectors and regions, thereby triggering a "race to the bottom".

"This minimum wage only covers a quarter of the basic costs of living for an average Guatemalan family. Paid so little, already vulnerable households are left in a precarious situation, unable to ensure a decent standard of living for themselves and their families, with food security and access to an adequate and nutritional diet seriously undermined," said Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

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