In 2023, the minimum wage on Bonaire will increase by no less than 18 percent. This is good news for people who earn little, but entrepreneurs fear that prices on the island will continue to rise.

Minister Carola Schouten (Poverty Policy) wants to have reached a social minimum for the Caribbean municipalities by 2025. To achieve this, the Dutch government is raising the minimum wage four percent more than recommended.

Several entrepreneurs fear further inflation. “The fact that people must have sufficient income for a full existence is not a point of discussion,” says Sherwin Pourier, owner of a sandwich shop on Bonaire.

“It is only assumed from the side of the employee, while the entrepreneur is faced with higher costs. If the entrepreneur starts incorporating the higher costs into the product prices, we are back to square one.”

‘Gap between wages and expensive living costs for years’
Employee union Usibo says it hears the same concerns from other companies. “There is a willingness to raise wages,” emphasizes chairman Norwin Willem. “But employers will of course also have to take into account their company, that it is not unnecessarily endangered.”

For years there has been a gap between salaries and the expensive living costs on the island, says Willem. “That gap has only gotten bigger and bigger. Now the Dutch cabinet is trying to solve this in this way. The only question is: what will the world of commerce do? Will entrepreneurs apply the costs to their price again? Then we do indeed have a very big problem.”

‘If you offer minimum wage? You will be laughed at’
At Roland Schalker’s supermarket, employees already earn more than the minimum wage, says Schalker. “Also more than the new minimum wage, because that amount is certainly not enough to live on. Moreover, we also do not find people who come to work for 6 dollars. I do know that there are companies that still find those people, for example in construction.”

There is a change in various sectors on Bonaire, he says. “I recently saw on Facebook is looking for a cleaning lady, for 8 dollars an hour. Well, that person really got laughed at. In the end, everyone will have to keep up with the new wages. Otherwise, people will go and work elsewhere.”

Minimum wages up sharply
  • As of January 1, 2023, the government will increase the minimum wage for Bonaire by 18.2 percent, for Saba by 15 percent and St. Eustatius by 14.3 percent.
  • This means that workers who earn the minimum wage will benefit about $ 180 per month.
  • For a worker aged 21 or older, with a 40-hour working week, this comes down to:
    — $1,236 per month on Bonaire
    — 1,446 dollars on St. Eustatius
    — $1,434 on Saba
  • The tax-free allowance will also be increased by 40 percent. People on Bonaire, Saba and Statia do not have to pay income tax on all income up to USD 17,352. 30.4 percent on the money that comes on top of that, then 35.4 percent on the amount from 281,921.

“The minimum wage of 2023 is a significant increase,” says Schalker. “But we do have an easier time talking. If you have a small business, it’s a completely different situation. Consider, for example, a construction company for which you have already concluded contracts.”

‘Politicians aren’t doing enough for entrepreneurs’
According to the Central Dialogue, the cabinet should help entrepreneurs in the three special municipalities of Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius more. “Entrepreneurs who need money can get it more easily in the European Netherlands. On Bonaire, for example, there is still no subsidy to take steps in the field of sustainability.”

Supermarket entrepreneur Pourier wholeheartedly agrees, he says. “The entrepreneur must be able to continue doing business so that the employee can enjoy an income. If this is no longer possible, then even raising the minimum wage makes no sense!”

“In addition to the increase, there must be relaxations for employers. I am thinking of tax benefits, but of course there are other possibilities. There is always a solution for that.”