Business Magazine

Why Workers Must Be Paid the Living Wage

Posted on the 17 October 2012 by Thewritefuture @thewritefuture

SweatshopMy daily work is to advise and assist garment factories - in mainly developing countries- to raise their ethical standard. A job I love and even if only 1% of these changes and improvements stay in place in the long run, I am grateful, as that will make a difference in the daily life of the workers in the factories.

One of the issues that often pop up in factories in developing counties is that the workers don't get paid the "living wage". Living wage is not the same as minimum wage. The living wage is the amount you actually need to live in a specific place (so it will higher in New York than in a remote village in Laos). The minimum wage is the legal minimum that needs to be paid, usually not even close to the living wage.

There are many excuses going around as to why paying the living wage is not possible, not necessary or not even good. And if you think any of the below arguments is valid, please read this interesting Blog post on Ecouterre

1. Calculating fair and balanced wage is impossible 

2. Consumers don't want to pay more for their shirts 

3. Governments, not companies, need to set minimum wages 

4. Low-income countries would lose their competitive edge

5. We're helping workers who would otherwise be unemployed

6. The cost of living is lower so we can pay workers less

7. Our company code of conduct says we pay a fair wage

8. The economic crisis has crippled our ability to pay a higher price

9. Higher wages will draw low-paid nurses and teachers into the garment industry and ruin local education and welfare

10. Our shareholders don't support living wages for workers.

I'm sure that after reading the Blog post on Ecouterre you're also convinced that there are simply no valid excuses NOT to pay the living wage. I know from my own experience that many retailers have come to that conclusion as well(some slowly, others quite quickly).

And what can we do as customers? Ask your favorite retailer what they do. Check their websites, be aware of this issue and do your shopping at retailer who care.

Today I realised that some issues are closer home than you might expect. On the news it was announced that there are 580.000 jobs in London paying less than the so-called London Living Wage. But even more interesting to read was that the same research showed that the government could make up to 1 billion in taxes and welfare a year if more businesses would pay the recommended London Living Wage! This is the same in other countries and shows a strong case for governments to make, by legislation, the living wage the norm instead of the exception!

More information:

The current living wage for London is £1394 per month (8,30 per hour). The minimum wage is nearly £1040 (£6,19 per hour)

In Cambodia the living wage is $281, the minimum wage $83.

Living Wage UK

Phnom Penh Post, Mind the Cap

International Labor Organisation, Wage Indicator

Ecouterre, 10 Biggest excuses not to pay living wage

LBC, 1 in 5 Londoners paid less than living wage

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