Billions 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 well-being 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 to 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.
This is a free self-paced course in which you can study at your own pace and free of cost. You can enrol for free in the audit track and - if you wish - get a Statement of Participation for 29 € once you've finished the course. When an exam phase is organized(, you will have the chance to get a University Certificate of Achievement for 49 € after passing an online exam. The Global Labour University may offer scholarships to participants from non-OECD countries and to trade unionists from OECD countries to do a Certificate for free. If you wish to get a Certificate for this course, please start studying in the audit track and send an email to email@example.com to express your interest in an exam phase.
You can also visit the Global Labour University Online Academy to find other free online courses on International Labour Standards and Decent Work in Global Supply Chains and join the GLU Online Education Facebook Group.
The course includes the recording of two Facebook live discussions with experts from the Global Union Federation IndustriALL and the ILO. You can find the recording here.
What do I need to know?
The course requires a working level of English. Some prior knowledge of wage policies and economics will make it easier to follow. However, theoretical concepts are explained in an accessible and user-friendly manner, so it is also possible to participate in the course using skills and knowledge acquired outside formal education.
What will I learn?
This course explains global wage trends and discusses the particularities and strategies of collective bargaining and minimum wages as wage setting mechanisms. The course presents global trends and analyses the relationship between wages and economic development, as well as the impact of migration, gender and racial discrimination on wages policies. After presenting the major challenges for setting fair wages today, the course will look at successful experiences and labour campaigns that resulted in better working and living conditions, and ongoing initiatives for living wages.
Each week, we will open a new chapter and the chapters will remain accessible once they are opened. So you can go back to prior chapters at any time. The estimated workload is 3-4 hours per week.
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 bargaining models and explain practical implications, including the right to strike as the underlying indispensable condition of any genuine 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.
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
This chapter aims at drawing lessons for sustainable wages policies and trade union strategies around the world. Workers in 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 and initiatives, including the Fight for Fifteen campaign in the United States, the minimum wage campaign in South Africa, supply chain involving global buyers, and the difficulties and chances of negotiating wages in an inflationary environment in Latin America.
Audit Track (for free)
Audit track with Statement of Participation (29 €)
For obtaining your Statement of Participation in the Audit Track, you need to complete 80% of the video lectures and quizzes.
Certificate Track with Certificate of Accomplishment (49 €)
When an exam phase is organized, you will have the chance to get a University Certificate of Achievement for 49 € after passing an online exam. The Global Labour University may offer scholarships to participants from non-OECD countries and to trade unionists from OECD countries to do a Certificate for free. If you wish to get a Certificate for this course, please start studying in the audit track and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest in an exam phase.
Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Herr (Professor Emeritus, Berlin School of Economics and Law Germany)
Dr. Uma Rani (Senior Development Economist, International Labour Organization)
Gilad Isaacs (Research Director, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)
Dr. Frank Hoffer (Executive Director of ACT Foundation)
Neil Coleman (Strategies Co-ordinator, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), South Africa)
Susan Hayter (Senior Labour Relations Specialist, International Labour Organization)
Dr. Patrick Belser (Senior Economist, International Labour Organization)
Prof Dr Mary Bellman (Professor of Labour and Employment Relations, Penn State University, U.S.)
Dr. Luis Campos (Director of the Observatory of Social Rights, Workers’ Central Union (CTA - Autónoma), Argentina)
Maité Llanos (Project coordinator, Global Labour University)
Tandiwe Gross (Associate expert, International Labour Organization)
Jenny Holdcroft (Assistant General Secretary, IndustriALL)
Guy Ryder (Director General, International Labour Organization)
Prof. Dr. Carlos Salas (Professor of Economic Theory and Gender Studies, University of Campinas, Brazil)
Bandile Ngidi (Rural Transformation Project Officer, Oxfam, South Africa)
Ruth Castel-Branco (PhD candidate, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)
Prof. Dr. Praveen Jha (Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India)
Dr. Janine Berg (Senior Economist, International Labour Organization)
Ashim Roy (Vice-President of the New Trade Union Initiative - NTUI, India)
Prof. Dr. Archana Prasad (Professor at the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, School of Social Sciences of Jawaharlal Nehru University, India)
Vagner Freitas (President, Trade Union Confederation – CUT, Brazil)
Juneia Batista (Director of Organization and Representation, Women in Informal Employment – WIEGO, South Africa)
Dr. Thorsten Schulte (Institute of Economic and Social Research – Hans Bockler Foundation)
Jane Barrett (Director of Organization and Representation of WIEGO)
Ronald Janssen (Economic policy adviser, Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD - TUAC)
Photo: Barry Solow / CC BY
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