Published On: Sun, Dec 19th, 2021

Is St. Maarten’s minimum wage at the bottom of the pile? That depends on the pile

PHILIPSBURG — “A complete revamping for the economy boosting strategy is necessary, because it has not worked for the St. Maarten minimum wage earner.” That is the conclusion of Certified Risk Analyst Terence Jandroep after a study on the “small man economic platform in the Caribbean.”

The study includes a comparison of minimum wages in the Dutch Caribbean and the findings are no surprise: St. Maarten is at the bottom of the food chain with an hourly rate that trails the payout in the BES-islands, Curacao and Aruba.

Jandroep notes that minimum wage earners in St. Maarten take home 21 percent less than their brethren in the BES-islands, 17 percent less that the same workers in Aruba and 9 percent less than those in Curacao. The difference per month varies from 147 guilders ($82.12) to 409 guilders ($228.50).

Jandroep put all his date in a matrix and found that, when inflation rates are added to the mix, St. Maarten’s minimum wage earners earn 24.4 percent less than those in the BES-islands, 20.4 percent less than those in Aruba and 12.4 percent less than those in Curacao, “while Curacao is by far the cheapest of all islands for food and housing.”

The analyst wonders why concerns about this situation have not been brought forward earlier by any organization in St. Maarten. “And what has the government done in de last decade about the cost of living?”

Minimum wage-earners in St. Maarten are unlikely to get loans or credit cards, Jandroep points out.  They become easy prey during election time and they become the subject of systematic impoverishment.

While Jandroeps interesting research reads like a call to action for the government, or the parliament for that matter, our own research into minimum wages in the region adds a different perspective to story. In Jandroeps report, St. Maarten is at the bottom of the list, but in a comparison of minimum wages in thirteen surrounding Caribbean countries, St. Maarten ranks fourth.

With its hourly minimum wage of $4.93, St. Maarten indeed falls behind the BES-islands, Aruba and Curacao. But it does better than all other Caribbean nations on our list.

An example: the lowest paid minimum wage earner in Haiti makes $0.16 per hour. If we put the number of working hours per year, based on a 40-hour workweek at 2,080 (52*40), the Haitian will get $332.80 for his efforts in his own country. If he works in St. Maarten, he takes home $10,254. In other words, back in Haiti, a man would have to work 30 years and almost ten months to earn the same money he can make in a year in St. Maarten.

Here is a list of minimum wages in the Caribbean. Some countries have different minimum wages for different sectors of their economy. In this list, we mention their highest and lowest minimum wage.

  1. BES-islands $6.25
  2. Aruba $5.92
  3. Curacao $5.37
  4. St. Maarten $4.93
  5. St. Kitts and Nevis $3.33
  6. St. Vincent and the Grenadines $2.59 (high)
  7. Trinidad and Tobago $2.22
  8. Dominican Republic $2.12 (high)
  9. Dominican Republic $1.20 (low)
  10. St. Vincent and the Grenadines $1.15 (low)
  11. Jamaica $1.13
  12. Guyana $0.96
  13. St. Lucia $0.64 (high)
  14. Haiti $0.37 (high)
  15. St. Lucia $0.34 (low)
  16. Dominican Republic sugar cane worker $0.32
  17. Haiti $0.16 (low)