Low pay is an issue that affects millions of workers throughout the world. Whether developed or developing, rich or poor, countries have struggled to lift all workers onto a wage that covers the cost of living.
In the UK, the Living Wage Foundation has spearheaded the campaign for decent wages. Almost 4,000 companies have joined this movement in the UK, lifting 150,000 workers onto a Living Wage and putting over half a billion pounds back into the pockets of low paid workers. Campaigns in other countries have enjoyed success, however, there is a still a long way to go.
In recent years, business leaders, government officials, academics, NGOs and unions have expressed interest in a global approach to delivering a Living Wage. In response, the Living Wage Foundation (LWF) has been exploring the possibility of developing such a global, collaborative approach.
As part of our Global Living Wage initiative we undertook an extensive international engagement exercise in 2015 to develop a set of Living Wage Principles. Through holding discussions, and securing support from over one hundred experts, a set of six Living Wage Principles was created. These principles can found in our summary report The Living Wage: Core principles, and include:
- A Living Wage should be calculated by reference to the income an individual needs to earn in order to live a decent life (where basic standards of living are met) and to participate fully in society
- The Living Wage for any country, location should be set by reference to local living standards and needs.
- The Living Wage should be set in a transparent way, independent of control or manipulation by government, employers or other parties.
- A Living Wage should be sufficient to pay for a locally agreed basket of goods, which is likely to include food, housing, utilities, transport, a degree of leisure and potentially education, health insurance, childcare, servicing debt and savings. A Living Wage is likely to include support for family members as needed in the local context
- A Living Wage should be paid to all employees (male and female) over a locally agreed minimum working age
- A Living Wage should be paid voluntarily by employers
Following on from the 2015 roundtables, several Living Wage Employers, multi stakeholder agencies and other interested parties, came together to discuss harnessing the increasing interest in a global Living Wage approach to address in-work poverty across all sectors and multiple geographies, as part of a unified, global process. Current members of this group include:
- Citizens UK
- Trades Union Congress
- University of Strathclyde
A second round of international discussions was convened in 2017 to consolidate support and continue to develop interest in the Principles. Between May and July 2017, the LWF facilitated seven international conference calls (“Living Wage Dialogues”). These drew together an international coalition of key stakeholders interested in developing successful Living Wages around the world, and in finding a way to progress the growth of a global Living Wage movement. The objectives of each Dialogue were:
- To seek to build a broad coalition of stakeholder interest in the six Living Wage Principles
- To create a trusted environment in which to discuss the potential of and enabling conditions for a global Living Wage approach to work in different contexts
- To consolidate and build upon the interest in taking this forward and to explore collaborative opportunities.
The group members are now consolidating ideas and opinions from the Dialogue participants, and considering next steps to develop the Global Living Wage movement.
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