According to the 2023 Household Budget Survey conducted by Statistics Mauritius, 13.3% of households received less than Rs 20,000 last year. It will soon be a thing of the past. These 50,000 households will receive an Equal Opportunity Allowance.

“We are announcing a historic measure for all Mauritian families”: these are the words in which the Minister of Finance presented the introduction of the Equal Opportunities Allowance on June 7. 50,000 households earning less than Rs 20,000 per month will benefit from a monthly allowance of Rs 2,000 per household. A 2023 Household Budget Survey carried out by Statistics Mauritius last year revealed that 13.3% of households in Mauritius received less than Rs 20,000 per month.

For Vidya Charan, director of the Mauritius Family Planning and Welfare Association, the amount of Rs 2,000 is suitable for the moment. It will be useful for those at the bottom of the ladder without solving all financial problems. “A larger sum could have been awarded. The Ministry of Finance may be able to improve this allocation later. However, it is important to understand the importance of money and not to be wasteful,” she says.

Any measure that tends to help the most deprived is good, according to Claude Canabady. The secretary of the Consumers' Eye Association concedes, however, that the amount is not enough, although he says, given the current situation, any help is welcomed. Cumulative inflation is 15.5% over the last two years, including 7% in 2023. Data from Statistics Mauritius demonstrate that average monthly household consumption expenditure increased by 45.6%, from Rs 28 750 in 2017 to Rs 41,870 in 2023. “Food and non-alcoholic beverages” constituted the largest share of household consumption expenditure (25%). Which makes Claude Canabady say that we would have liked better, but it is not systematically possible. “We also have to consider that people don't always use money appropriately. It would have been more judicious to offer vouchers for food, for example,” he continues.

Wage gap

The Minister of Finance stressed during his budget speech that if men are born equal in rights, they are not equal in fact. To correct these injustices which deprive some of its fellow citizens of access to the same opportunities, he argued, the government “has fought tirelessly to reduce inequalities where they exist”. However, Jayen Chellum, secretary of the Consumers' Association of Mauritius, is of the opinion that the name chosen for this allowance is not appropriate. “Given the percentage of households that receive less than Rs 20,000 per month, will an amount of Rs 2,000 bring equal opportunities? We should find a less controversial term for this allocation,” he says. According to him, the income gap in Mauritius is considerable. By granting allowances at different levels and above all without targeting, he deplores the fact that the gap between salaries is widening instead of narrowing.

According to a “Survey of Employment and Earnings in large establishments” published in 2023, the lowest averages were recorded in “administrative and support services activities” (Rs 21,984) and in the manufacturing industry” (Rs 24,764). In the “Manufacturing Industry” group, the “Textiles and Clothing” sector recorded average monthly salaries of Rs 21,080. The average monthly salary in manufacturing establishments was Rs 20,785. The “Korn ferry compensation survey 2023 Mauritius” indicated that the median monthly base salary upon hiring for an employee with a bachelor's degree was Rs 26,200. Those with a master's degree benefited from an average sum of Rs 38,387 after three years, while a holder of A Doctorate / PhD received Rs 39,000 after three years.

Furthermore, the National Foundation for Social Inclusion (NSIF) will contribute to the Consolidated Fund to finance, among others, social schemes and programs such as the Overseas Treatment Scheme, the Prenatal Care Subsidy and the Equal Opportunity Allowance.

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