Article 145 of the Labor Code, states the right that every employee has to receive a minimum wage that allows fulfilling personal and familiar needs. According to labor provisions in this regard, the following criteria shall be taken into account when determining the amount of the minimum wage: cost of living, working modalities, companies´ economic capacity, specific conditions of each region or economic activity, place of work and special circumstances of some employers that have to provide special benefits (feeding and housing aids) to their employees.
The Constitutional Court has pronounced in several opportunities, not only about the right to a living salary for employees, but to a dignified life under the minimum wage protection. According to the rulings of the high court, everyone has the right to receive a minimum wage aimed at developing a life project.
The minimum monthly wage established by the Colombian Government for 2015 is of COP 644.350, for year 2015 (approx. USD 267).
As mentioned above, in Colombia, the economic capacity of the companies is a determining criteria in setting the amount of the minimum wage; therefore, every year, this amount is negotiated between employers and employees (represented by labor unions), seeking to balance the interests of both parties. Now, if a settlement is not reached the government sets up its amount. The problem is that usually the amount set is not proportional with the increase in the cost of living or the purchasing power of money.
Furthermore it is worth mentioning that the right to a minimum wage in some cases is limited by the maximum working schedule of 8 daily hours and 48 hours per week. For example, in the event of a minimum wage employee that only works part time, he/she will be entitled –in principle- to half of the minimum wage.
This leads us to conclude that although the purpose of the existence of a minimum wage is to protect the employees and their families, the reality is that the amount is very low and not enough to cover even the lowest necessities regarding education, health, shelter, clothing and recreation.
Many have wonder if countries should have a minimum wage law that sets up the smallest amount that an employer can pay to an employee. Detractors of the minimum wage consider that setting up a minimum wage fights against the prevention of unemployment and poverty, since if there is a minimum wage established by the law, employers will prefer to seek qualified candidates.