must be able to earn a living through their work
all the Member States of the European Union are used to having a
In Germany, the debate about the introduction of a minimum wage is
one of the important topics in present-day politics. Whereas Germans
are still arguing about it, throughout the world, at least
in many industrial countries, it has long
been a fact of life. In 20 out of the 27 EU Member States, in the
USA, Canada and Australia, even in China and Russia, there are
minimum wages, even if they are variable ones.
fact, there are significant differences worldwide as to how high the
minimum wage is and and how it is defined. But even if the actual
goal is not always achieved, the underlying idea is similar: those
who work must be able to earn their living through their work and
must be able to live in dignity.
Germany too, this is no longer true for a growing number of people,
owing to an expanding low-wage sector and irregular and vulnerable
forms of employment. "Low
make Germany poor. Working
This is the slogan of the
DGB minimum-wage campaign.
According to a DGB survey in 2007, about 1.3 million workers (around
500,000 of them working full time), were unable to earn a living wage
in spite of being in employment.
wage as a way out
statutory minimum wage is not a universal remedy
for poverty either,
but it does prevent the wage-dumping spiral from continuing on its
downward path. It also ensures that the work people do is again held
in fundamentally high esteem.
have been able to gather dozens of positive examples of the impact of
a minimum wage from all over the world. They also contradict one of
the main arguments of the opponents of the minimum wage, which is
that the minimum wage destroys jobs. Great Britain, for instance,
where there has been a uniform national minimum wage since 1999, is a
country that proves the opposite. Instead of declining, employment in
Great Britain has risen since this time, especially in those sectors
where workers are often paid the minimum wage.
USA has also had a statutory minimum wage since 1938. The Federal
Government in Washington determines the level at which it is set
(5.15 US dollars is the current rate). The individual states,
however, are allowed to set their own higher levels, even for
individual regions. Currently, Santa Fe County in New Mexico has the
highest minimum wage in the USA, namely 10.50 US dollars.
a livelihood worldwide
course there will not be statutory or negotiated minimum wages all
over the world in the near future, especially not in many developing
and emerging countries. But people who work must be able to earn
their livelihood through their work, they must be able to live and
work in dignity and with security, whether their earnings are decided
on at company level, whether their wages have been negotiated in a
collective bargaining process, or whether they are recipients of a
statutory minimum wage. This is what is meant by decent work
worldwide. This is what workers' organisations and initiatives all
over the world are striving for, this is the goal of international
conventions and codes.