ILO Report: Wages falling during pandemic, 266 million have no minimum wage

The latest Global Wage Report from the International Labour Organization (ILO)reveals downward pressure on wages in two-thirds of the world’s countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the crisis hitting the lowest paid hardest.

266 million people are denied a minimum wage due to restrictive laws and non-compliance, in particular agricultural and domestic workers.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “This report exposes a global wages scandal, with some countries even having a minimum wage that is lower than the poverty line. Seventy-six percent of people in the ITUC Global Poll 2020 do not believe the minimum wage is enough for a decent life. Hundreds of millions of workers are living on the edge, and their plight has only worsened during the Covid-19 crisis, even as tech billionaires and pandemic profiteers extract billions of dollars. It is crucial to guarantee minimum living wages to all workers in order to allow them and their families to live in dignity.”

The report also points to the disproportionate impact on women, who comprise around 60% of all workers whose working hours have reduced during the pandemic.

The ILO’s findings also help debunk the myth that living minimum wages hurt economic growth: increased minimum wages actually reduce wage and income inequality.

“Living minimum wages are not only vital for workers and their families, but they are also in fact an investment, contributing to economic activity and reducing the need for income support. The notion that decent minimum wages cost jobs is a fallacy put about by right-wing economists – one that should be consigned to the dustbin of history. Minimum wages must be evidence based, taking into consideration the cost of living for workers and their families, and developed together with social partners. They must have the force of law, and non-compliance must be met with strong and dissuasive sanctions,” said Sharan Burrow.

Unions are campaigning together in Africa, Asia, Europe and Central America to demand fair and decent wages through the following regional campaigns: