The minimum wage in El Salvador

This article was originally published at El Salvador Info under the title Minimum Wage in El Salvador in 2024: Understanding the Economic Realities of Salvadorans and is reprinted here with permission of the author.

Updated on Jan 29, 2024
The monthly minimum wage in El Salvador in 2024 is $365.00 for commerce, industrial, service, and sugar mill workers; $359.16 for maquila workers that manufacture textiles and clothing; $272.66 for coffee mill and sugar cane harvesting workers; and $243.46 for agriculture, fishing, and coffee harvesting workers.

The last minimum wage increase occurred in August 2021 during the Nayib Bukele administration; before that, it happened in 2018, under the Salvador Sanchez Ceren presidency.

In 2024, the Salvadoran minimum wage is divided into four sectors, with two specifically designated for urban areas and two for rural regions.

Commerce, Services, Industry, and Sugar Mills Wages

The minimum wage rate for workers in the fields of commerce, services, industry, sugar mills, and other agribusiness activities is $365.00 per month, $1.50 per hour or $12.00 per day.

The commerce and services sector includes workers in call centers, retail, restaurants, hotels, secretarial work, bank tellers, and many other types of professional work.
Textile and Clothing Maquila Workers Wages

Workers in the textile and clothing maquila sectors receive a minimum wage of $359.16 per month, equivalent to $1.48 per hour or $11.81 per day.

El Salvador’s maquila, manufacturing, and textile sectors appear as key contributors to job creation. This industry encompasses the production of diverse items, including shirts, pants, shoes, and various other products.

The bulk of products manufactured by this sector are exported to the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Sugar Cane Harvesting and Coffee Mills Wages

Workers engaged in sugar cane harvesting and coffee mills receive a monthly minimum wage of $272.66, equivalent to $1.12 per hour or $8.96 per day.

Agricultural Sector, Fishing, and Coffee Harvesting Wages

The minimum wage rate for agricultural work, fishing, and coffee harvesting is $243.46 per month, regardless of the number of days in the month. It is $1.00 per hour or $8.00 per day.

Like industry which has much higher salaries, these sectors employ a significant portion of the Salvadoran population; nevertheless, they receive the lowest minimum wage in the country.

An issue with employers in this sector, especially agriculture, is that most do business informally. Therefore, many workers in these areas get paid even less than the minimum wage assigned to this sector.

Minimum Wage in El Salvador
Work in Rural El Salvador. Image by Alcaldia de Sensuntepeque.

Salvadoran Wages in the Informal Sector

El Salvador’s informal sector does not have a minimum wage. Therefore, workers in this area get paid whatever the employers feel is correct for the work being done. It can be more or less than the appointed minimum wage for the specific industry.

El Salvador has laws protecting workers, intended to ensure they get paid at least the minimum wage. However, these laws are rarely enforced in the informal sector due to the prevalence of informal businesses, the difficulty of maintaining precise records, such as worker’s earnings or working hours, creating a lack of accurate information.
Many of the businesses that operate informally are in the agricultural sector. Also, small businesses that sell goods and services in smaller towns are known for conducting business informally.  Undoubtedly, El Salvador’s actual minimum wages are lower in the informal sector than the lowest established minimum wage by the Salvadoran government.

Increasing the Minimum Wage in El Salvador
Increasing the minimum wage in the country is not an easy thing to do. Workers want an increase that covers at least the essential cost of living in El Salvador; however, businesses oppose a significant increment as it would reduce their profit margin.

Article 144 of the Salvadoran labor laws says the following: “Every worker, including the home workers, has the right to earn a minimum wage that sufficiently covers the common needs of their home, in the material, moral and cultural order, which will be set periodically.” El Salvador Labor Code.

The current minimum wage is not enough to cover the essential cost of living in El Salvador. The last minimum wage increase was done in 2021 by the Nayib Bukele administration.

How Often is the Minimum Wage in El Salvador Reviewed?

According to the country’s Labor Code, El Salvador’s minimum wage must be evaluated every three years. This is done to verify whether it is feasible to make any increase.

The analysis looks at the overall economic aspect of the country, the economy, inflation, cost of essential items, and business environment.

The analysis is done by the minimum wage council; it includes 2 representatives from the labor sector, 2 from the employer sector, and 3 from the government. After the review, they decide if an increase is necessary and recommend it to the Salvadoran congress.

Wages in El Salvador
El Salvador National Palace. Image by ElSalvadorNews.

El Salvador’s Minimum Wage is Not Enough for Salvadorans

One significant factor contributing to poverty in El Salvador and prompting many citizens to seek opportunities elsewhere is the country’s minimum wage.

The El Salvadoran minimum wage is insufficient, and fails to support a decent lifestyle or elevate the living standards of workers and their families. Furthermore, it falls far short of covering the overall cost of living in the country.

In 2024, the primary concern for Salvadorans revolves around the economy, particularly wages. The combination of a high cost of living and low incomes stands as the foremost reasons driving many Salvadorans into poverty.
This article was originally published at El Salvador Info under the title Minimum Wage in El Salvador in 2024: Understanding the Economic Realities of Salvadorans.   Some edits made for clarity.


Cathy A Howell said…
Unfortunately the USA minimum wage at the federal level has remained at $7.25 per hour since 2009 - and many states have raised theirs, but many have stayed with the federal level - mainly Republican states but not all. It's woefully inadequate - much as the ones in El Salvador are. Both places badly exploit low wage workers. With a lot of hard work, Oregon has raised minimum wage every year for several years and also passed a bill mandating overtime pay for farmworkers back in 2020 - a major step forward to fix the horribly lagging federal labor law that was agreed to by FDR to get votes of southern congressmen who wanted to exclude from overtime laws the Black workers who made up the majority of agricultural and domestic workers back then. Those jobs are filled mainly by immigrants now, so Salvadorans who migrate to the USA are still being impacted by those same racist laws and in most southern states also are victimized by the failure to increase the federal minimum wage.