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Fair Wage Strategies in a Global Economy

Global Labour University via iversity


Billons of workers around the world have no regular income or do not even earn a wage sufficient to live a decent life. Over the last decade, wages for many workers have been stagnant and the largest part of the economic gains achieved has gone to the top of the income pyramid. Wage discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or employment status contributes towards greater inequality and violates the basic principle of equal pay for work of equal value. The market has been unable to ensure a fair distribution of wages and guarantee the wellbeing of ordinary people and social peace in our societies.

Where poverty and inequality have been reduced, this has mainly been thanks to the creation of regular waged jobs and a more equitable wage structure. Sustainable wage policies and fair wage setting mechanisms can contribute towards a more equal and prosperous society for all. This course offers a mix of video lectures and interviews, readings, online resources and exercises to gain both knowledge and practical skills to understand the actual landscape of wage setting.


Chapter 1: Political economy of wages

This chapter provides a general overview of the current global picture on wages. Senior experts from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), introduce the main global trends on wages and explain how non-standard forms of employment have impacted the world of work. The chief trade union negotiator for the new minimum wage in South Africa, discusses the political and economic challenges of wage setting, while a member of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD, explains the multiple purposes of collective bargaining. Participants will be invited to introduce themselves and share relevant material in an interactive world map.

Chapter 2: The role of collective bargaining

This chapter focuses on the key role that collective bargaining plays for wage setting. ILO expert Susan Hayter describes the various actors in the bargaining process and how the different negotiation formats have a direct impact on current wage trends and wage-income distribution. Trade unionists from Argentina and Germany introduce different existing bargaining models and a practical case, including the right to strike as the underlying indispensable of any real bargaining process.

Chapter 3: Minimum and living wages

This chapter introduces the concept and history of minimum wages, as well as the existing international labour standards that provide a regulatory framework for minimum wage setting. It also looks at the actual levels of country-level compliance. Experts from South Africa discuss what the policy considerations are when designing minimum wages and the benefits of setting minimum wages in a country with a very unequal wage distribution. Finally, the challenge of compliance with minimum wage regulations will be explored. At the end of the chapter, the peer-review assignment invites you to apply your newly acquired knowledge to a practical case from your country.

Chapter 4: Macroeconomics of wages

This chapter untangles the relationship between wages and economic development. It discusses how wages are shaped by, and impact, different economic regimes, and then goes on to discuss the relationship between wages, inequality and economic policy. These topics are presented by economic experts from Europe and India. The chapter explains these fundamental and important economic concepts in an accessible way.

Chapter 5: Wage setting in an unfair world

Various forms of discrimination contribute towards wage inequality. Experts from Brazil and India introduce discrimination based on gender, race, cast and ethnicity and the how these shape wage levels. Trade unionists from the Global South discuss the challenges of wage setting for migrant workers and workers in precarious employment.

Chapter 6: Workers’ strategies and campaigns for Minimum Wages, Collective Bargaining and Decent Wages

Workers from different parts of the world are undertaking campaigns for living wages to address social inequalities and to ensure decent jobs. This chapter explores examples of such campaigns, such as, the Asian Floor Wage Initiative, the Fight for Fifteen campaign in the United States, the minimum wage campaign in South Africa and the difficulties of negotiating wages in an inflationary environment in Latin America, in order to draw lessons for trade union strategies around the world.

Taught by

Hansjörg Herr, Maité Llanos and Gilad Isaacs


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