PAPUA New Guinea mine workers are among the lowest paid in the world while expatriate mine workers in the country are among the highest paid, an expert says.
Concept Group managing director, Brendan Coombs pointed out the shocking wage disparity, which he described as “terrible”, at a Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast.
“In the mining sector, throughout the world, PNG is second to last in average local salaries,” he told the breakfast, which was mostly attended by human resources personnel. For expats, PNG is second from top in what it’s paying to recruit people. My first reaction to that is that it’s terrible.
“How can we be lowest-paying our citizens and highest-paying our expats,” he asked. “It’s not entirely fair.
“Just to clarify it, when you’re talking average salary, with the citizen employees they go all the way from labourers through to mine managers so their average will obviously be lower than your average expat, who will start at supervisory level and go higher. So you haven’t got a completely fair comparison.
“Having said that, the cost difference between getting a Papua New Guinean to do the job and getting an expat to do the job is just the same as it always was. In this case, it’s five times more.”
Coombs said the solution was in PNG developing over time, particularly its education system, as well as improving the country’s terrible image problem overseas.
“If we can develop Papua New Guineans over time, then hopefully, that (wage disparity) will move back,” he said. And PNG is … not the most attractive place on earth.
“And they (employers) feel they have to offer these salaries to get people to come here. The two things I read in here is our education system.
“Having been here 30 years, I can compare people that I’ve worked with at Grade 10 education up against people who come out as graduates now – not only in terms of English comprehension and maths ability, but just their ability to learn.
“Our education system has not improved and I would think that it’s probably declined and that has to be improved to fill this gap.
“Of course, the other thing is the standard of living we enjoy in Papua New Guinea in terms of how attractive it is in regards to crime, corruption and all those sorts of things.”
His advice: “All you can do is focus on what you can change.
“Develop the staff that you have as much as you can and get rid of the idea that it’s someone else (expatriate) who has to be calling the shots.
“That’s happening increasingly but obviously there’s still a large gap.