Jamaicans, Haitians, Trinidadians and quite a few other Caribbeans are naturally entrepreneurial. We don’t necessarily have ten “jobs” as is often rumored, but we’re often working on multiple business projects at the same time.
Like Americans, we take very different stances in the minimum wage debate. In Jamaica the minimum weekly wage is equivalent to less than US$50.00. There we also see first hand how the liberty to underpay is used and abused. On the other hand the $15.00 an hour “living wage” some Americans are calling for would make many small businesses non-starters from the outset.
I’m beginning to find myself enamored with the term “job creators” even though I don’t fancy the party that came up with it. There are those with an exacting business plan and all the start up capital they could ever need. There are also those called ingenues or hustlers, depending on who is describing them. They start in the garage with help from unpaid friends until they can pay $10.00 an hour to have someone assemble their widgets. Without a high profit margin, a $15.00 minimum might mean no real help for years. For $10.00 someone who needs it has a job and the company can build faster.
I disagree with those that say if you can’t pay more then you shouldn’t be in business. Folks with the luxury of sticking out for higher paying jobs should do so. For those without, $10 is not great but it is greater than zero, and it can be a stepping stone to greater things. I do believe the $15 minimum should apply to large corporations who make billions in profits and have the means to pay their employees better. Most starter companies and small businesses cannot afford that.
So whether you have chosen to trod the road of small business ownership, whether you did it the “right” way or the “right now” way, let’s consider that one size does not fit all, and that for the benefit of employment, we have to support the employers as well.
Calibe Thompson is the Executive Producer of the “Taste the Islands” Caribbean cooking series. Learn more about her at www.calibe.net.