The topic of living wage has exploded into public consciousness, from fast food workers in the US to global clothing companies in Bangladesh. A living wage allows a worker to cover the essential needs of their family, with a little extra “just in case." The legal minimum wage too often falls far short of this concept, leaving workers around the world mired in poverty. Living wage is a complex topic, but is increasingly seen as a fundamental human right.
Sustainability standards define what is responsible practice and drive change in businesses. And standards are already working with several hundred brands, buyers and retailers that need to be part of wage discussions around the world. As such, sustainability standards can provide a great deal of influence in the living wage debate.
ISEAL members Fairtrade International, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), GoodWeave, Sustainable Agriculture Network/Rainforest Alliance (SAN/RA), and UTZ Certified, along with Social Accountability International (SAI), have made a joint commitment and launched an unprecedented collaboration that will scale up their impacts in living wage. The group, called the Global Living Wage Coalition, recognises that living wage is crucial to their individual certification programmes and they have agreed to a shared approach for measuring living wage.
The long term goal and shared mission of Global Living Wage Coalition is to see improvements in workers' conditions, including wage levels, in the farms, factories and supply chains participating in our respective certification systems and beyond.
In the coming years the coalition will lead to the strengthening of living wage requirements in codes and criteria but this joint effort is focused on a great deal more than the content of standards, because compliance with a certification programme will not raise wages on its own. The coalition, in partnership with Richard and Martha Anker have developed a state-of-the-art methodology for calculating living wage, developing a set of country-specific living wage estimates, and testing them in various sectors and countries. They will be using all of this work to equip a range of organisations engaged in living wage, including supply chain partners, workers and trade unions, among others, to increase dialogue and take stronger action to increase wages. UPDATE: The full Living Wage Manual, which explains each step in the process of estimating a living wage, is now available here.
ISEAL is facilitating this coalition and welcomes the interest of organisations that can help us put in place the conditions, partnerships, and structures to support the group's long-term goal to see wages in certified supply chains increase towards living wage.
The Coalition is working on commissioning and completing studies across the globe to set living wage benchmarks for regions and sectors. Please check the Living Wage Benchmark Reports block on the left to access the studies that are available.
The Coalition has also trained 20 researchers in three training events in Turkey, China and Costa Rica in 2015. 18 benchmark and prevailing wage studies are currently in progress and 3 more are set to begin soon (alongside 4 pilot studies already completed), in the following countries: Brazil, Ethiopia, China (5 locations), Bangladesh, Tanzania, India (2 locations), Nicaragua, Ecuador, Vietnam (2 locations), Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Mexico, India, Costa Rica and Rwanda.