The living wage as an income range for decent work and life
journal contributionposted on 04.08.2022, 03:06 authored by Christian YaoChristian Yao, J Parker, J Arrowsmith, S Carr
Purpose: A “living” wage (LW) is conventionally defined as enabling meaningful participation in society above subsistence through, for example, recreation, supporting a family, and savings. There is increasing debate over LWs due to growing inequality, rising living costs and welfare reform but this remains largely framed by the econometric cost-benefit parameters that apply to minimum wage regulation. The capabilities approach advocated by Sen (1999) offers a different perspective that is inclusive of choice, contingencies and the inter-connections between quality of (paid) work and private life. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach: The paper adopts this framework and utilises a qualitative exploration of the narratives of 606 New Zealand employees to understand perceived wage effectiveness. The results suggest that a focus on a specific LW rate might be conceptually limiting, in comparison to a LW range. Findings: First, the findings indicate that there is a pivot range in which people move from self-assessed “survival” to “decent” income. Second, a LW may have more than a simply monetary effect in better meeting employees’ living costs; it can also improve well-being through subjective perceptions of valued freedoms to do with job satisfaction, equity and security. Originality/value: The results thus draw attention to a wider notion of a LW in terms of personal and family well-being, utilising a capabilities approach, with implications for organisational practice, policy and theory concerning sustainable livelihood and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.