Are you paying a living wage? Four ways to check

Inequality, Livelihoods

There is no single, universal way to calculate a living wage. It is contextual with a wide range of influencing factors leading to significant variation on national and regional levels. Here, Paulien Osse explains how companies can find the details they need to provide a living wage.

A living wage is a moral imperative; it serves as a beacon of decency in troubled labour markets. Living wage is a living entity; it changes throughout the seasons, in times of war and peace and with the ups and downs of the economy. In it, prices of basic commodities and services are reflected and these prices may change. Therefore, living wages change.

They differ from country to country and region to region and need to be reset every now and then. The Oxfam analysis clearly shows the need for increased awareness and vigilance. The low road of lasting poverty for the working poor threatens everywhere, time and again. Rich(er) countries are not free from it. Fortunately the digital age has made it easier to apply the principle of paying living wages globally.

Living wages are again the hot topic they, alas, deserve to be as long as they are not paid as a matter of course. Paying at least a living wage is a good thing for each and every one of us. The probing Oxfam analysis by now should have convinced you of its utter relevance. And then what?

So how do I know what is a living wage?

  1. First, you need to look inwards and ask yourself what you think constitutes a living wage and are you paying it?
  2. Next, check your wages in context and see if your country/countries are already indicated (each quarter more countries are added and numbers will be more precise)
  3. You should also compare your living wages with the national statutory minimum wages
  4. Finally, check whether there are already good collective agreements which are up to standard or could be a standard in one of the countries.

Wage indicator map

As the definition and understanding of a living wage is constantly shifting, following these simple steps can help lead you on the way to making a living wage a reality. For more information, please visit WageIndicator.org

Read more

A round-up of other blogs on the issue of living wage


Author: Paulien Osse
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.